The Jobless Journalist: Week three – To sub or not to sub?

This is the third post in a series from an anonymous UK-based journalist recently made redundant. To follow the series, you can subscribe to this feed.

You can also read posts by our previous ‘Redundant Journalist’ blogger at this link.

So far I’ve applied for a total of seven jobs (that’s not including the CVs sent to editors on the off-chance they know of something going). Two of these formal job applications have been for subbing roles.

The question is: I am a writer, not a sub-editor – should I even be applying for these jobs?

I do have a year’s sub-editing experience on the magazine I was made redundant from as well as on a couple of nationals, but I have been warned by editors in the past that I should stick to writing if that’s what I want to do.

I’ve always been of the opinion that sub-editing sharpens your writing and being able to write headlines and standfirsts, for example, can only be a bonus.

What is more, I can see from the sub-editing I have done how this could lead to being an editor, which is ultimately what I want to be.

Sub-editing involves being aware of the overall look of the piece – from pictures to pull quotes – as well as having impeccable grammar and spelling.

What is more, the increasing importance of online journalism means a journalist must be a sort of Judge Dredd character: writer, sub-editor and editor, rolled into one.

But the question still remains – should I apply for sub-editing roles? Or does the fact that I’m even asking this question mean I’ll never get anywhere with an application for a sub-editor’s job vacancy?

After all, if I can’t convince myself, then what chance do I have of convincing an interviewer?

5 thoughts on “The Jobless Journalist: Week three – To sub or not to sub?

  1. Russell

    Technically, subbing is still journalism. You’re absolutely right that experience of subbing sharpens one’s own writing. However, if you already have 12 months of experience subbing, do you really NEED more?and

    Why also is your thinking so 2-D? Why not sub as a freelancer and aim to fill enough time in the month to cover your mortgage and council tax bills – leaving enough space to stay hungry for reporting or features work?

    You won’t find PAYE security in the world of journalism, even if you do land a salaried job. The sooner this is accepted, the clearer the options become.

    I’m grateful for the subbing experience I gained in my journalism “career” but really don’t want to do it very much. Researching and telling stories is infinitely preferable to merely polishing them in “the back room” (where most of the residual PAYE and freelance jobs remain).

  2. The Jobless Journalist

    Hi Russell,

    Thanks for your comments. I think an important point you make is about leaving enough time for reporting and features work (which I also find infinitely more interesting than subbing) rather than finding yourself locked into a full-time subbing job.

    Also – I know there has traditionally been a divide between reportes and subs (I’ve heard of papers where they even choose to drink in separate pubs), but this gap seems to be closing as a ‘concertina effect’ becomes more commonplace, ie the two roles are merging into one.

    The Jobless Journalist

  3. Pingback: Journalist, train thyself! Online needs you… desperately! « Subs’ Standards

  4. Pingback: The Jobless Journalist: Week four – Are subbing and reporting roles merging into one? | Editors' Blog

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