This chapter should provide you with an understanding of the following:
The importance of checking your writing
Why grammar, spelling and punctuation are vital to accuracy, balance and fairness
How to work with other people’s copy and to proofread your work more than once.
The morning newspaper reader, feet up and coffee by their elbow or head buried in the day’s news on the train to work, is unlikely to even consider the part sub-editors have played in the stories they are reading. After all, the bylines give the reporters’ names and, if they look very closely, tiny credits will tell them who took the photographs. As far as they are concerned, it’s thanks to the reporter and the photographer that today’s news has been brought to light. To a large extent, they’re right.
However, there is a very important stage between the gathering of the news and its consumption by the public – the processing of that material – that goes largely unnoticed. And the subeditor who did it will have had a huge say on its final form. Without the sub’s approval, in fact, the story wouldn’t even make the paper. The sub-editors’ department is where all the news material of the day – stories, features, opinion pieces, photos, graphics and so on – is collected and sorted, assessed and ranked, and approved or discarded. Then the processing of what will appear in the paper begins. There are a number of things involved: editing the stories, photo editing, the production of headlines, captions and graphics, the laying out of pages and so on. (Once upon a time subeditors were either copy subs or layout subs, but in the computer age they tend to do both jobs.)