Caesar non supra grammaticos

26 Mar

Picture 17

It’s always nice to see a sub-editor receiving praise. It’s even nicer when it’s someone you know: Peter Robins, former hero of the Tribune’s Saturday news shift and media desk, now amiable primus inter pares at possibly the only magazine in Britain that would still require someone with his talent for Latin.

He once helpfully volunteered to read a page of the business section while waiting for some home news to sub, and noticed that the axis labels on a small downpage graph had been transposed before most people would have got to the end of the standfirst. He is, like all the best editors, as unafraid of statistics as he is of the ablative case, and has the diplomacy to put things right without putting writers’ backs up.

And he seems to have inspired his editor, Fraser Nelson, to make quite a tribute. Many columnists are grateful to be saved from embarrassment, of course, and say so; but not many are  prepared to extend the credit for their success generally to their low-profile colleagues behind the scenes:

“The digital world has given columnists the ability to sell their wares directly to the public. But this hasn’t happened – columnists have remained within the family of a newspaper or magazine. Why? Because few columns are really the work of just one person. It’s the result of the relationship between the writer, the commissioning editors and the sub-editors. No columnist, no matter how renowned, has tried to break free of this arrangement. As a columnist, I can tell you why: we rely too much on other journalists, the people whose names you hardly, if ever, see.”



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