Press sub-editors are journalists or designers responsible for overseeing the content, accuracy, layout and design of newspaper and magazine articles and making sure that they are in keeping with house style.
Subs make sure that the copy is factually correct and that it suits the target market. They also lay out the story on the page, write headings and captions, and may be involved with overall page design.
Employers of press sub-editors
- Major newspapers
- Large commercial publishing houses
- Smaller specialist and independent publishers
A significant number of sub-editors are freelance. Unlike many journalists, subs find it much easier to move between one-off and regular publications.
- editing copy, written by reporters or features writers, to remove spelling mistakes and grammatical errors
- rewriting material so that it flows or reads better and adheres to the house style of a particular publication
- ensuring that a story fits a particular word count by cutting or expanding material as necessary
- writing headlines that capture the essence of the story or are clever or amusing
- writing standfirsts or ‘sells’ (brief introductions, which sum up the story underneath the headline)
- liaising with reporters, journalists and editors
- checking facts and stories to ensure they are accurate, adhere to copyright laws, are not libellous or go against the publication’s policy
- cropping photos and deciding where to use them for best effect and writing picture captions
- proofreading complete pages produced by other sub-editors using the main basic proofing symbols
- working to a page plan to ensure that the right stories appear in the correct place on each page
- laying out pages and, depending on the nature of the role, playing a part in page design
- manipulating on-screen copy using appropriate desktop publishing software, such as Quark Express, InDesign and Photoshop
- keeping up to date with sector issues, e.g. by reading related publications
- adapting all these skills for a publication’s website.
A degree is not a formal requirement, but it can be difficult to get into the profession without a relevant degree or diploma.
Graduates from a range of backgrounds can gain entry on to training courses, but relevant degree subjects include:
- media studies.
- Able to work under pressure and to tight deadlines
- Excellent standard of grammar and spelling
- An understanding of the law relating to publishing and journalism
- Meticulous attention to detail
- Excellent oral and written communication skills
- Interpersonal skills
- IT skills