Who’s the expert around here anyway?”A linguistic-ethnographic investigation into the role of sub-editing at a broadsheet newspaper.
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Who’s the expert around here anyway?” A linguistic-ethnographic investigation into the role of sub-editing at a broadsheet newspaper.

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Paper presented at the Language in the Media Conference, Queen Mary’s College, London, 2013

Paper presented at the Language in the Media Conference, Queen Mary’s College, London, 2013

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Who’s the expert around here anyway?”A linguistic-ethnographic investigation into the role of sub-editing at a broadsheet newspaper. Who’s the expert around here anyway?” A linguistic-ethnographic investigation into the role of sub-editing at a broadsheet newspaper. Presentation Transcript

  • “Who’s the expert around here anyway?” A linguistic-ethnographic investigation into the role of sub-editing at a broadsheet newspaper Astrid Vandendaele (Ghent University) & Prof. dr. Ellen Van Praet (Ghent University) September 29, 2013 – Queen Mary’s College, London
  • Who is responsible?
  • Who is responsible?
  • Who is the expert around here anyway?
  • Accuracy Research • Charnley 1936; Maier 2005; Meyer, 2004; Fox et al 2009; Baerns 1999; Breiden 2002; Porlezza et al 2012; Bleyenberg 2013 • Factual errors cited: ‘misquotations’ & ‘inaccurate headlines’ • 1 in 3 articles contains a mistake • Error rates in newspapers: on the rise
  • Who is responsible?
  • Porlezza et al (2012) Reasons for error, listed by sources: • Lack of understanding • Deadline pressure • Insufficient research • Confusing events • Reporter didn’t ask enough questions • Pressure to get a scoop • Reporter didn’t ask right questions • Reporter laziness • Source provided misinformation
  • Journalists versus Sub- editors
  • • “the forgotten stepchildren of the newsroom” (Vane 1997) • “a semi-ghost to assist the inarticulate and illiterate” and • “The unsung heroes who make the words of journalists look good” (AJR 2001) • “While important, reporters are not the key people. Subs are.” (Quinn 2001) • “The relationship between reporters and subbers has always been tense. In most offices a kind of demilitarized zone exists between the two areas. (…).” (McKane 2006)
  • Who is the expert around here anyway?
  • “The newsroom is like a football team: the journalists are the strikers: when they shoot, they score, but when they miss a goal they will get beaten up by the crowds. The sub-editors are like the defenders: they can only get it wrong…” (GM_T_03.12) “Actually, a sub-editor can but make mistakes.” (TVM_DM/DS_03.12)
  •   Divide/Distance 1.Hierarchy 2.Time 3.Space Enhanced Tension
  • PhD • Focus on the sub-editor - linguistic-ethnographic pov • Participant observation at Flemish and Dutch broadsheet • Data: field notes, audio-recordings (storyboard meetings, semi- structured interviews with sub-editors and journalists), email correspondence, computer screen shots, articles in different stages pre and post-sub-editor
  • The sub-editor who is good at his job is “perhaps the nearest thing to what might be described as the complete journalist” (Newspaper Subediting Bible, 1982) Towards a more complete definition of sub-editing process & the sub-editor as a genuine ‘newspaperman’ (Gieber 1964) Towards a better understanding of newsmaking practice, and the news itself
  • Research Question How does this layered construction of expertise take shape, and what is the sub-editors part in it?
  • Data • The editorial • Pilot phase: limited corpus of 10 editorials • Fieldwork (spring/summer of 2013): internal archive & Mediargus
  • Universiteit Gent – September 2007
  • Short bio Short bio QuoteQuote PicturePicture BylineByline Contact details Contact details
  • Research Question How does this layered construction of expertise take shape, and what is the sub-editors part in it?
  • Order of interventions in editorial 1) layout editor 2) journalist 3) sub-editor 4) journalist 5) sub-editor 6) layout editor
  • Order of interventions in headline piece 1) journalist 2) ‘Chef Nieuws’ – Current Affairs 3) Layout editor 4) sub-editor 5) layout editor
  • Differences • (Editorial: one voice less -> pro forma) 1)Editorial: senior sub-editor => consistently the case for the entire pilot corpus 2)Editorial: different process => layout–driven
  • Concluding Remarks • the editorial: sub-editor’s part is rather insubstantial: his expertise was expressed in terms of language, typography and quote • ‘backbench journalists’ actually take a back seat •The task of the journalist is different: he takes on part of subber’s expertise, i.e.  text is made to measure  adds headline himself (and quote, 7 out of 10)  makes sure the right fonts are being used
  • Concluding Remarks • Journalist of the future: several skill sets, among which those of the sub-editor •Are sub-editors the journalists of the future?
  • Thank you very much! Astrid.Vandendaele@UGent.be Ellen.VanPraet@UGent.be