Tuesday, September 02, 2014


Eilis O'Hanlon
"Write a letter"

I have become so infuriated with typos and inaccuracies in the newspapers that I have adopted a Twitter hashtag #SackTheSub, the idea being that the Sub-Editor, whose job it is, should have picked up on this stuff before it went to print.

Sacking the Sub would not have helped in the little spat I had with Eilis O'Hanlon way back because in her case she had inaccurately, and detrimentally, misquoted Pope Francis. No Sub would have been expected to pick that up. That was the journalist's own job. I pointed out to her that she had falsely attributed a mysoginistic quote to the Pope, which she subsequently knew to be false, and I asked if she intended to correct it. Her response was to tell me to write in a letter as that how this is done nowadays.

I was very taken aback at this. Instead of correcting her error in the following issue she wanted me to try and correct it by writing in to the newspaper. This is nuts, I thought. But this week I read a piece in Phoenix which seemed to confirm her stance as what is now standard practice, in the Sunday Independent at least. Of course, that does not make it good journalism.

This is what Phoenix had to say:

Phoenix 29 August 2014 p12
Click text for larger version

I understand the system works by allowing the writer/reporter to enter copy directly into a template of the page where they will have been allocated a certain space. The disadvantage to the reader is twofold.

In the first place the copy is not subject to checking by anyone other than the originator and that may consist of a simple automatic spell check.

In the second place, nobody is determining the relative importance of the item after seeing the copy. It could have fizzled out as an item but in today's competitive environment no journalist sent out for a story is going to admit this, so the reader will end up with inflated copy.

I would hate to undermine the enthusiasm of any writer of copy, but I do think they ought to be aware of this before their next filing.

It seems to me that this development partly undermines the mainstream media's claim to journalistic superiority over mere bloggers. The MSM have always boasted that their copy has to pass a screening process before it is launched on the public whereas bloggers type straight to print, as it were.

I suppose I should have been prepared for something like this from my even earlier spat with RTÉ Automatic Radio some three years ago.

Anyway, time to lighten up, so here's a piece of classy sub-editing from the pen of Gordon Brewster in the Sunday Independent of long ago, probably 1920s or 1930s.

Thanks to National Library of Ireland
Click image for larger version
See original


Póló said...

Although the Brewster cartoon is undated, the reference to The President (of the Executive Council) puts in the period before the introduction of the 1937 constitution.

Póló said...

Bit of brass neck here:

"It's a journalist's job to know when false impressions have been given and to amend them ... "

according to Eilis in yesterday's Sunday Independent.

Pity she doesn't practice what she preaches when it comes to false impressions that she has created herself.