Cross head 11-04-03

The Age debate

What becomes of freelance subs once they are past the first flush of youth? Like knob jokes in a Daily Telegraph leader or moments of sidesplitting fun at a union meeting, they are a bit of a rarity, especially in the magazine world. (On some newspapers, by contrast, grey hair and creaking limbs can be a guarantee of a shift.) This excellent question was posed recently in an online discussion forum for subs and it is hard to know the answer. Are they frozen out by younger chief subs who are uncomfortable working with them? Possibly. But I have another explanation. Too many freelance subs aged 40-plus seem to think they can exist without a mobile phone, without a telephone answering machine and without e-mail. To book them you have to hope that their mother/wife/husband/ partner/son/daughter passes on your message correctly and speedily. In some cases you must ask another fortysomething freelance to pass on the message the next time they bump into the elusive sub, probably at a Jethro Tull or Wishbone Ash concert.

THINGS OVERHEARD ON THE NEWSDESK NO.3: “Well, why can’t they just drop a picture from the page and not cut my copy?”

Capital confusion

It looks like “killer bug” Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome could be infecting our news pages for some time. In terms of style, there seems to be a near 50-50 split, with “Sars” being adopted by the BBC, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph, among others, while Reuters, The Times and The Sun clearly take this thing very seriously and are among those to prefer the more scary “SARS”. So The Times style is “Aids” yet “SARS”. Should we be worried by the use of caps?

Is Quark too late?

Quark Inc has just released more information about its long-awaited QuarkXPress 6, which will run with Mac OS X, unlike other versions of Quark. Details are available on the Quark website but they don’t include a release date, which is a shame because publishers are losing patience. They include Reed Business Information, whose spokeswoman told Cross Head this week that its UK magazines will “probably” all be switching over to rival Adobe InDesign over the next 12 months “although no deal has yet been signed”. A successful trial on two Reed weeklies is thought to have prompted the move. The National Magazine Company is also believed to be looking at making the switch. Freelance subs (young and old), it’s time to get retrained, I guess.

Cross Head returns in two weeks

Next week: Dr Deadline

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