Saturday, 14 February 2009

A Tribute to my favourite Sub Editors

‘You have to be mad to work here and it doesn’t help’
Barrie Mills

Today we mark the passing of those sisters and brothers who have kept us right and proper – in terms of news anyway – for more than 150 years. In Paul Allison’s case that’s wholly true.
Let us salute the sub editors of daily and weekly newspapers on Merseyside, for today they cease to exist and will we ever see their likes again?
Many are now multi-media production operatives and never more will they beat their heads in very early morning ire writing headlines for the page four national briefs column nor will they grumpily drag in the shares for the city edition.
It’s been some time since they corrected Granty’s spelling but they still laugh at Riley’s pomposity and eradicate the numerous (extraneous) brackets from Shennan’s paeans to Everton.
They will never again tell newsdesk that Tilson Road is not in Norris Green but Aintree (maybe Walton at a push) nor will they ever again refer to the James Bulger investigator as ‘Hot Dog/Jumping Frog/ Albert Kirby’.
Sure, they were the men and women who wrote brilliant headlines like ‘Haughty Culture’ and ‘Crosby, pills and hash’ but they were those who wrote stinkers like ‘Expensive lunch break: sat on a Ming,’ and also misspelled dyslexia in a headline.
They shortened Hillsborough to HBORO and knew that the phrase ‘flip flop wearing tiny nun’ should simply read ‘FUCKING MOTHER TERESA’, but without the caps and the first word.
They knew that the word ‘over’ should be ‘more than’ because an over is something you bowl in cricket; they always subbed out the words ‘plumped for’ from a restaurant review and replaced them with ‘chose’ and they knew that a bastard measure wasn’t just the personal quality that got you up the corporate ladder in journalism.
They revelled under savage soubriquets like the Jim Reaper and sometimes argued about what was better: Horlicks or Ovaltine (crrct, I witnessed it). But they always knew that the last two products needed a cap H & O because they were trade names.
Amongst the greatest of us, we took the Mirror shilling, won awards for our writing on pubs or were the cover boy for the NUJ’s Journalist magazine. Other greats played chess on deadline, edited the ritual madness that was putting out a Pink ECHO by 5pm on a Saturday and knew every single member of the Merseyside cricketing fraternity (especially on deadline) or were the best horse loving/wine critic/ features designer around.
They were fellow travellers and today marks the passing of some of the best journalists to have served this city, region and nation state. It is up to us to mark their passing.
We will, of course, do so by getting fish/ chips/mushy peas on a Friday and tell everyone loudly on the way back from the canteen: ‘Those knob head youngster reporters are shit and wouldn’t it be great to work on a PROPER newspaper.’

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