“Who’s the expert around here anyway?”
A linguistic-ethnographic investigation into
the role of sub-editing
at a broadshee...
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...
Who is responsible?
Porlezza et al (2012)
Reasons for error, listed by sources:
• Lack of understanding
• Deadline pressure
• Insufficient res...
Journalists versus Sub-
editors
• “the forgotten stepchildren of the newsroom” (Vane
1997)
• “a semi-ghost to assist the inarticulate and illiterate” and
...
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...
 
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
• Da...
The sub-editor who is good at his job is “perhaps the nearest
thing to what might be described as the complete
journalist”...
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 ...
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 edi...
Order of interventions in headline piece
1) journalist
2) ‘Chef Nieuws’ – Current Affairs
3) Layout editor
4) sub-editor
5...
Differences
• (Editorial: one voice less -> pro forma)
1)Editorial: senior sub-editor => consistently the case for the
ent...
Concluding Remarks
• the editorial: sub-editor’s part is rather insubstantial: his expertise
was expressed in terms of lan...
Concluding Remarks
• Journalist of the future: several skill sets, among which those of
the sub-editor
•Are sub-editors th...
Thank you very much!
Astrid.Vandendaele@UGent.be
Ellen.VanPraet@UGent.be
Who’s the expert around here anyway?”A linguistic-ethnographic investigation into the role of sub-editing at a broadsh...
Who’s the expert around here anyway?”A linguistic-ethnographic investigation into the role of sub-editing at a broadsh...
Who’s the expert around here anyway?”A linguistic-ethnographic investigation into the role of sub-editing at a broadsh...
Who’s the expert around here anyway?”A linguistic-ethnographic investigation into the role of sub-editing at a broadsh...
Who’s the expert around here anyway?”A linguistic-ethnographic investigation into the role of sub-editing at a broadsh...
Who’s the expert around here anyway?”A linguistic-ethnographic investigation into the role of sub-editing at a broadsh...
Who’s the expert around here anyway?”A linguistic-ethnographic investigation into the role of sub-editing at a broadsh...
Who’s the expert around here anyway?”A linguistic-ethnographic investigation into the role of sub-editing at a broadsh...
Who’s the expert around here anyway?”A linguistic-ethnographic investigation into the role of sub-editing at a broadsh...
Who’s the expert around here anyway?”A linguistic-ethnographic investigation into the role of sub-editing at a broadsh...
Who’s the expert around here anyway?”A linguistic-ethnographic investigation into the role of sub-editing at a broadsh...
Who’s the expert around here anyway?”A linguistic-ethnographic investigation into the role of sub-editing at a broadsh...
Who’s the expert around here anyway?”A linguistic-ethnographic investigation into the role of sub-editing at a broadsh...
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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

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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.

  1. 1. “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
  2. 2. Who is responsible?
  3. 3. Who is responsible?
  4. 4. Who is the expert around here anyway?
  5. 5. 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
  6. 6. Who is responsible?
  7. 7. 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
  8. 8. Journalists versus Sub- editors
  9. 9. • “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)
  10. 10. Who is the expert around here anyway?
  11. 11. “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)
  12. 12.   Divide/Distance 1.Hierarchy 2.Time 3.Space Enhanced Tension
  13. 13. 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
  14. 14. 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
  15. 15. Research Question How does this layered construction of expertise take shape, and what is the sub-editors part in it?
  16. 16. Data • The editorial • Pilot phase: limited corpus of 10 editorials • Fieldwork (spring/summer of 2013): internal archive & Mediargus
  17. 17. Universiteit Gent – September 2007
  18. 18. Short bio Short bio QuoteQuote PicturePicture BylineByline Contact details Contact details
  19. 19. Research Question How does this layered construction of expertise take shape, and what is the sub-editors part in it?
  20. 20. Order of interventions in editorial 1) layout editor 2) journalist 3) sub-editor 4) journalist 5) sub-editor 6) layout editor
  21. 21. Order of interventions in headline piece 1) journalist 2) ‘Chef Nieuws’ – Current Affairs 3) Layout editor 4) sub-editor 5) layout editor
  22. 22. 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
  23. 23. 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
  24. 24. Concluding Remarks • Journalist of the future: several skill sets, among which those of the sub-editor •Are sub-editors the journalists of the future?
  25. 25. Thank you very much! Astrid.Vandendaele@UGent.be Ellen.VanPraet@UGent.be

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