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Jobs at risk under publisher’s plans to scrap subs

Sub-editor roles across a regional publisher’s titles could be axed as part of a restructure which will see a content management system implemented.

Jobs are at risk at Iliffe News and Media which has told staff about an eight-month programme to bring in new editorial workflows across its titles, as it moves away from a largely-print based structure towards a ‘digital first’ policy.

In an internal memo seen by HTFP, the publisher says it will also review the current management structure below the level of editor, which would result in changes to key roles.

The announcement said a number of new roles would be created under the plans, including four new regional head of content positions, and they would initially be ring-fenced for those most affected by the changes.

The memo said: “These plans include the introduction of a new Atex editorial system that will enable us to invest more of our editorial resources and energy into generating content rather than processing it.

“It will also enable us to support our planned push for a Digital First publishing policy.

“These plans will mean that some current roles and responsibilities within the editorial function will have to be reviewed as we begin to move away from our current largely print focused and traditional structures and workflows.

“Although individuals will still be working in groups we are proposing to introduce a more streamlined print production approach that would, for example, replace the current sub editing function.

“We also intend to review the current management structure below the level of Editor which will mean re-defining a number of key job roles pivotal to the management of editorial content generation and the processing of it through to both print and digital platforms.

“Although there could be some reduction in head count if our proposal to eliminate the sub editing role is confirmed, it is important to recognise that the overall aim of our strategy is to increase our audience through the delivery of high quality content.”

It adds consultation meetings will be taking place over the coming weeks and revised job descriptions will be sent to all staff.

Iliffe’s eight-month programme intends to start with Bedford-based LSN Media, whose titles include Bedfordshire on Sunday, and will finish in March next year with the Cambridge News.

Illiffe News and Media has not yet responded to requests for a comment.

27 comments

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  • August 14, 2012 at 10:38 am
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    I bought a local paper recently and the mistakes were awful.
    Here are three I can remember:

    Family members being victamised

    Chairty instead of charity

    A lady called Caroline had her name spelled Caroilne under a photo.

    As subs go papers are getting worse.

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  • August 14, 2012 at 10:44 am
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    Having started on an Iliffe title, and having worked as a sub on several of their titles, I must say this news saddens me more than almost anything I have heard about the future of newspaper production in recent years. And that is saying something!

    Quite apart from the practical issues at hand in having no people to taste/correct/enhance/headline reporters’ copy and photographers’ images, or to design pages, what does this say to the sub editors working on the titles?

    Well clearly, it says you’re not wanted any more. So imagine you are one of those subs, who has been the ‘glue’ that holds newspapers together for donkey’s years, and imagine how you must be feeling today.

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  • August 14, 2012 at 10:49 am
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    Atex! Means a lot more work for the people who are left. I’ve worked on a number of editorial systems and Atex is by far the worst. Just google Atex and NUJ to find out what’s in store. The worst of it is that even when you are proficient with it, the system is very slow.

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  • August 14, 2012 at 10:54 am
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    I predict that without proper sub-editing their products will be riddled with mistakes and, therefore, poorer quality, poorly perceived.

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  • August 14, 2012 at 11:14 am
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    Derrr….Hello….Content put up online via CMS, remarkably, STILL needs Subbing! ie. Checking for Legals, bad spelling, lousy writing, lousy grammar, factual inaccuracies, and whether you like it or not, it STILL needs headlining!
    Any accompanying photos also need processing…and ALL of that content also needs Loading into the CMS by somebody which is actually immensely time consuming! Subs are necessary, and are here to stay, Digital future or not. Get over it!

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  • August 14, 2012 at 11:28 am
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    RIGHT FIRST TIME!!!!!!!!!!

    This is the mantra of groups now.

    Was in a meeting last week where this phrase was said at least six times.

    In an ideal world yes everything would be correct as soon as it leaves the reporters fingers but with fewer staff having to more and more then mistakes will slip through.

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  • August 14, 2012 at 11:38 am
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    As a former regional sub/chief sub, I think that subs have effectively ‘worked themselves out’ of roles by being obsessed with ‘design’. Most subs, and editors, placed the emphasis on this so-called design (in reality, moving boxes round a screen to templates) and relegated copy editing, headline writing, caption writing etc to the ‘downtable’ people resulting in so-so pages, badly edited. As a result, editors have realised that the ‘design’ can be done by template and high-quality subbing hasn’t been part of the equation for years, so subs aren’t needed.

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  • August 14, 2012 at 12:18 pm
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    I wish Iffle look with there endevers to create this brave new world. Who needs subs anway?

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  • August 14, 2012 at 12:21 pm
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    You’re bang on Freddie. What subs, designers and content managers fail to grasp is that readers don’t care a jot for design. When a reader gets in touch with a editor, news editor or reporter it may be to praise a story, or moan about it. Likewise, a headline may have tickled them, or infuriated them. They will complain about perceived inaccuracies in reports, or allege a paper has failed to be impartial. In turn, they will praise quality reporting, or strong photos.
    However, one thing I have never experienced in three decades working for local newspapers is a reader getting in touch to declare how a cut out had made a page sing, or moan that the use of a run around had puzzled them.
    The harsh truth is design is little more than a circle jerk for those who earn a living from it; no one else cares. With templated pages set to become the industry standard the role of the designer is as redundant as that of a hot metal typesetter or a paste up artist.

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  • August 14, 2012 at 12:25 pm
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    Take a look at a relaunched paper of a certain national paper group if you want an example of a deadly sales-slashing combination of Atex, and sterile design before content. Tiny pictures (musts!) that annoy readers, trashy vox pops in some, lots of wasted white space. It’s a statistical fact. Journos doing everything but research decent stories and fighting a clumsy IT system every single day of their working life.
    Welcome to the doom-laden world of painting by numbers. You didn’t read it here first.

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  • August 14, 2012 at 12:25 pm
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    Freddie — All good subs could do both roles. Maybe you couldn’t?

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  • August 14, 2012 at 1:27 pm
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    wastepaperbasket

    You seem to have missed the point in spectacular style. What I am saying is that the so-called ‘design’ is actually nothing of the sort. It’s a simple box moving exercise. Yet chief subs, deputy chief subs and the so-called senior subs always had this role. As such, the value of copy subbing was diminished to the point that it seemed secondary to many subs.

    I think I could do both – but I know which was easier and less important. Hubslave is right – as long as the page makes a kind of sense, which a monkey could do – readers only care about the words/headlines/accuracy etc.

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  • August 14, 2012 at 1:28 pm
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    So, if you write straight onto the page (printed or otherwise), it doesn’t need checking. Right.
    As long as I’ve been doing this job, subs have had to justify their existence to ‘publishers’ who see them as an easy target. It never seems to cross their minds that these are the people that carry out the quality control of their products. This says a lot about what this company thinks of its readers.
    Freddie, your comments are ridiculous. You should have hired some decent subs.

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  • August 14, 2012 at 1:46 pm
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    I think you might be a little naive Hubslave. The design of a paper is often the reason why a reader chooses a) a particular publication to read or b) whether to read it at all. I have often heard it said that the reason why the circulation figures of The Mirror are so poor in comparison with other similar tabloids is that its design is crap. And if you look at the publications lined up in your newsagent, surely you will tend to go towards the one that attracts you either through its design or its headline. Subs are trained to write headlines – good subs write good headlines (admittedly poor ones don’t). Have a look at a selection of publications and see if you can spot which ones have headlines written by reporters. It won’t take you long.

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  • August 14, 2012 at 2:02 pm
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    I used to work for this awful company. It’s a policy typical of the weak management who run it – people who have no respect for journalism, and who aren’t very good at raising money through advertising either. This policy is bound to weaken their products even further, and the implementation of it is likely to be disastrous, given the track records of some of the people involved.

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  • August 14, 2012 at 2:20 pm
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    Subbing man (and others) – how does “a streamlined print production approach” equal “no checking”? It doesn’t, does it? Does the Iliffe statement say anywhere that they’re not going to bother checking stuff any more?

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  • August 14, 2012 at 2:45 pm
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    I think, when you pull together a number of the comments made here, that the simple truth is, Iliffe won’t be checking their pages. Proof readers went the way of the west a long time ago, and if you’re not going to employ professional subs to check copy and pages, who is going to do it? I suppose the reporters could pass their pages to each other to read!

    If a company only wants to employ one set of people to write, sub and headline copy, then that company is getting rid of the wrong set of people.

    But that’s economics, isn’t it?

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  • August 14, 2012 at 2:51 pm
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    Nonsense … the biggest sellers are Mail and Sun and they would never win design awards. Sun esp gets impact from good headline writing.

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  • August 14, 2012 at 3:30 pm
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    I agree wholeheartedly with Nemesis. Readers don’t notice the design unless it’s poor. That’s the beauty of good design; it serves to facilitate the reading and is usually unnoticed.
    Anyone who thinks design subs are ‘just moving boxes around’ has the same lack of respect for the craft as the bosses who’ve decided subs are expendable.
    It is a great shame that newspapers everywhere are adopting this ridiculous ‘right first time’ mantra. It just doesn’t happen.
    And as for the excuse that they’re focusing on the digital platforms, well, that’s what JP said when it made my local daily a weekly. Several months on, there are usually two versions of the same story on the home page, along with a hard-hitting duck race story. At weekends, it’s often just nibs.
    Why don’t the bods in charge make a positive step for once and outsource their decisions to somebody who has a clue?

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  • August 14, 2012 at 3:38 pm
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    What seems to have happened in other outfits that have attempted to do this is that
    1. The news editor has to do the copy subbing, on top of everything else h/she does, otherwise grammatical, legal, social & geographical howlers get in. They still do, of course, particularly if you have a high turnover of staff on the newsdesk;
    2: After a year or so the company announces it is employing some copy subs or redeploying people from other roles to do copy subbing…

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  • August 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm
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    OK, I was being a bit cheeky re moving boxes, but let’s face facts – copy subbing and headline writing are the poor relations to ‘design’, even when it’s templated and not really design at all.

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  • August 14, 2012 at 3:49 pm
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    Homer – “I think, when you pull together a number of the comments made here, that the simple truth is, Iliffe won’t be checking their pages”. The comments made here do not equal “the simple truth” by virtue of being numerous. Guesswork is guesswork, however many people make the same guess. 12 bits of fantasy don’t add up to the truth. If people could will something to be true through sheer force of numbers England would have won every World Cup since ’66. There’s nothing in the statement about “one set of people to write, sub and headline copy”. You’re making stuff up.

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  • August 15, 2012 at 8:58 am
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    As someone who had already gone through this I told them it was coming two years ago. But Atex is not the problem. Atex, and InDesign are great when they’re not slowing computers to early 1990 speeds. The real problem is publishers who rather than see it as a way to evolve newspapers into truly multi-platform news outlets, think purely about how many people they can throw on the scrapheap to cover for previous years of bad management and rank incompetence.

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  • August 15, 2012 at 11:38 am
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    What the hell is wrong with these people!?
    The publishers are at the wrong end of the platform!
    I worked for a “major” (well it used to be anyway) regional publisher who like others invested many millions across the major online verticals and ended up selling most of them off for “peanuts”. They just did not get in with a strong enough product/brand and tried to take on the major players – and lost. In fact most online sales “strategies” made sure that online played a very distant second rank both in terms of actual sales effort and more importantly pricing models. It was nearly always just an add on, big mistake. It is all the more disappointing as many within the company told the “senior managers” what they needed to do to stand a chance of earning serious revenues from the net. Did they listen – well I think you all know the answer to that one.
    In the initial stages of development they tried to us online as if it was a free weekly to defend the paid for – nuff said eh!!!!!!

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  • August 15, 2012 at 2:51 pm
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    I disagree with a number of the points raised here. Layout and design works on a subliminal level – therefore explaining why one person favours a particular style of newspaper to another. Even as far back as the 1960s, the food industry established beyond doubt that packaging does matter and that, often, the same product would have varying levels of appeal solely on the basis of how it was packaged. This is no less true with newspapers. The design is a conduit for conveying information in an easily readable and acceptable format. It acts on a subconscious and subliminal level and those publishers who forget this simple fact do so at their peril.

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  • August 21, 2012 at 12:54 pm
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    Right First Time?

    Hearing that being spouted by the current batch of comically inept regional newspaper managers would send irony soaring off into an entirely new dimension.

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