Archive | July, 2018

Overexposed

24 Jul

Quick, over to the online picture library to get the news angle on this photo:

An undated handout picture

Right

made available by the press service

Yes

of the civic chamber of the Russian Federation

Right

on chamber’s official website

OK

shows the ‘Right To Bear Weapons’ Public Organisation’s Board Chairman Maria Butina

the … what? Right

attending a rally to demand expansion of citizens’ rights

Right

in a Russian city

Right

In Russia.

Got it.

Maria Butina, 29, was arrested in the United States on suspicion of being engaged in conspiracy against the US and acting as an unregistered Russian agent.

Ah! I thought she looked familiar.

If copy-editors seem impatient for a piece of text to get to the point, there’s a reason. Although all journalists wrestle with the problem of time – the deadline – subs are the only ones who have to confront the problem of space. Everyone understands, of course, that there are only a set number of pages per day, but, from the reporter who’s been told “aim for 900” to the designer who’s been promised “the pictures will look good big”, that awareness is theoretical. It’s only when the reporter has filed 975 words and the designer likes the pictures so much that she’s shaved the length down to 850 that the problem becomes concrete: at which point the copy desk is left to sort it out.

Captions on a single-column picture may only be three or four words long: as short as the shortest headlines. And although all the information – source, provenance, location, copyright – included in a photo agency’s filing is important for the newsroom and needs to be recorded, there’s never space to include it.

Or at least, there isn’t in print. There’s no pressure on space on the web, though, which means some news websites – such as USA Today – can pipe the whole lot through automatically for customers to read every last word. This blog has previously worried about the fact that captions have a shorter route to publication than any other part of a newspaper, but nothing’s quite as direct as this:

You would think that, if you’re going to lead off with the provider of the photo rather than the subject of it, you could skip having to write a full photo credit too. But at least someone took out “in a Russian city in Russia”.

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The first sub-editors ever to appear in song

10 Jul

Clinic: IPC Sub-editors Dictate Our Youth (Domino Records, 1997)

 

This is what youth sounds like: rebellion against corporate media, cultural authority, metropolitan savants … and the people who check their spelling.

There are, as we know, a couple of sub-editors in films, but who ever thought any would feature in a pop song? And not just any sub-editors, but the copy desk at IPC – the fallen British magazine titan that used to own Melody Maker and New Musical Express when they were both at the height of their powers.

Throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s, these were the papers in which famous writers were blooded and famous faces promoted; where punk and the New Romantics took flight and Blur fought Oasis for supremacy. You can see why a spiky young provincial band might rebel at so much glamour and hauteur being projected at them from London. But what’s so enchanting is the thought that it was the sub-editors – not Robert Elms, not Julie Burchill, not Chrissie Hynde – who were actually making this happen: making and breaking acts, gatekeeping impassively in Ray-Bans while the pop stars came and went.

It’s not as though MM or NME were particularly subs’ papers: alongside the epoch-making rock portraiture on the covers, the headlines tended to be very factual (WAKEMAN REJOINS YES) or straight quotes from the stars (“MUMFORD AND SONS: ‘OUR NEW SOUND WILL FREAK PEOPLE OUT!’). I think we all suspect that the truth was different: that in fact subs on music papers are rumpled figures, somewhat older than their colleagues, going round saying things like “You haven’t filled in the name of the band here … What? Oh, they’re called the xx?”

It’s not a very high-profile song – this blog was only put on to it by colleague Iain in the newsroom. And disappointingly, insofar as anyone can make them out, the lyrics appear to have nothing to do with journalism, but sound like a bleak portrayal of family strife, perhaps inspired by life in Clinic’s native Liverpool in the 1990s.

But still, we made it into the title. And it’s inspiring to think that an indie band once thought we were cool and aloof enough to put in a song.