What are the Important Duties Sub editor of a Newspaper



The work on the sub-editor's desk on a morning paper begins early afternoon, and the first member of it to put in an appearance is the copy-taster (usually the News Editor himself). His initial job is to go through the vast amount of copy which has already arrived; to discard the material which his paper will not be likely to use, and to assess the value of what still remains after his preliminary survey.

If he is wise he will have consulted the news-room to discover how much editorial space is available and what later stories can be covered; he works out a rough idea of the space available for various sections of the news. He knows, for example, that it is hopeless for the sub-editors to send out to the composing room a column report of a murder trial when there is no possible chance of publishing more than a quarter of a column.

By the time his colleagues have arrived in the next few hours-and duties are staggered because the room must be staffed throughout the night-the copy-taster has decided which man will cope with a parti­cular piece of news and to what length the story shall run.

The first hour or two are fairly heavy-going because the composing room has to be supplied with a continuous flow of material and any hold-up in the early stages may have disastrous reactions later in the evening. But gradually, the piles of raw material grow less as the sub editor, having completed the preparation of a news-story, submits it to the chief for his final approval before it is sent out to be set.

In some offices, the staff of the room includes are write sub editor' who has full authority to reconstruct a story if it is felt the it as written the material does not fit the style of the paper. But many papers do not approve of this additional stage in the sub-editor's room.

They prefer to rely on the judgement of the reporters to produce the kind of copy that the paper wants, and they realise how heart-breaking it can be for the reporter who feels that he had written a first-class piece of copy to see a version of it in the paper which he cannot recognise as his handiwork and which he certainly does not appre­ciate.

Proofs of the selected copy:

Proofs of all copy when it has been set are sent to the sub-editor's room, and it should be a definite rule that every sub should read in type the stories which he had dressed up, and give the 'O.K.' before they finally go forward into the paper.

He can then discover whether he has inadvertently omitted an important point in the story or has let slip through a sentence with a double meaning, which is the nightmare of any newspaper. Particular attention should be paid to the police court and other law reports to make certain that both sides are given a fair show and that the balance has been evenly held.

It is obviously impossible for any newspaper to publish a ver­batim report of a police court case, but the sub-editor must remember that it is his duty to preserve a fair balance all round.

Having passed his proofs and having dealt with his last piece of copy the work of the sub-editor is complete. But if he is keen on his job, he will, when he arrives on the following afternoon, examine the other papers to see how his rivals dealt with the stories with which he was especially concerned. The man who reads only his own paper will not go very far.

Even when the sub-editors, on early turns, go home, there is still a skeleton staff on duty ready to prepare news which may arrive after the first edition has gone to the press and which must he inclu­ded in the later editions.

This means that some of the stories already in the paper must either be removed bodily or cut and trimmed, in order to provide the blank spaces required. This is a job which calls for great skill and tact and it has to be accomplished on the spot. The easy way is to cut the last paragraph, but this may be disastrous if piece news is being told in chronological order.

The functions of a sub-editor fall under two headings: (1) super­visory, (2) creative and it will be best to deal with them in that order.

Supervisory Duties:

The sub then carefully reads through every story passed to him. He checks for anything that may appear libellous and if in doubt refers to his superior-either chief sub editor or the news editor-for a second opinion. Punctuation and paragra­phing are things to which he pays special attention, for it sometimes happens that in writing a story the reporter may make a slip. When turning out copy in a hurry, an obvious word may be omitted and go unnoticed when the reporter reads through his story; this the sub­editor will insert.

The sub may find that he has to cut the story; he has a shrewd idea of the amount of space available and of the importance-or otherwise-of the story. If space is 'tight', he may have to cut out certain paragraphs, selecting them with care so that he does not upset the balance or coherence of what has been written; but if there is plenty of room, he will 'let it run'-that is, he will send the copy out for setting into type on the linotype machines without cutting it.

Here his supervisory functions cease as far as the reporter is concerned; they are limited solely to the copy before him.