Cross head 25-04-03

A society for subs?

Picture this: 500 subs packed into one room discussing topics such euphemisms, headlines, style guides and banned words. Your vision of hell? Maybe. But it clearly hits the subbing G-spot in the US. The American Copy Editors Society has just held its annual conference in Chicago. It lasted three days and featured 50 sessions and 100 speakers. Set up for and by subs (or copy editors as they call them), ACES claims to have “forged the spirit and community” that has helped subs “take a more visible and constructive role in newsrooms”. That it exists at all is a surprise. Journalists aren’t natural joiners and it is hard to imagine a British Sub-editors Society. Having said that, the big social event in Chicago was a party at an Irish pub with music and drinks until 5am. Perhaps it’s not a bad idea.

So that’s why they hate us

One ACES conference session identified the problems subs have with reporters. They included:

They don’t like us touching their copy because they think their writing is great.
They don’t understand what subs do or downplay our importance.
Their writing is sloppy because they expect us to catch their mistakes.
They don’t understand the importance of writing to length. lThey don’t know basic style, grammar or general knowledge.

The session also listed reporters’ moans about subs. They included:

We’re condescending, humorless, uncreative and boring.
We stifle reporters’ creativity.
We focus too much on minutiae and don’t see the bigger picture.
e insert errors into their stories.

The bottom line on SARS

My look at press styles for ‘Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome’ led a nursing contact to reveal that, medically, ‘Severe’ and ‘Acute’ mean the same thing and it was set to be called ‘Acute Respiratory Syndrome’ until it was realised that SARS was preferable to ARS.

Get it right Guru

Ian Hargreaves is a media guru: professor of journalism, Ofcom member, former New Statesman editor and BBC director of news and current affairs. In the index to his new book Journalism: Truth or Dare? (Oxford University Press), there are five entries under “accuracy”. It’s a pity, therefore, that he consistently refers to Kelvin Mackenzie, rather than MacKenzie. Is he getting his own back for the former Sun editor’s less than encouraging words to Hargreaves, while he was editing The Independent: “It’s only a question of when, not if, you get the boot.”

Cross Head returns in two weeks

Next week: Dr Deadline

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