Finding my place within the pack

There are hierarchies within journalism and the cub reporter, like the wolf cub, is at the bottom of the pack.

Above this you get a junior reporter, then a senior, then a chief reporter. Sometimes the chief reporter might also be the deputy editor – then you get the head honcho, the editor.

Somewhere in the middle of all this you will find that strange beast – the sub-editor, neither flesh, fish nor fowl.

On a newspaper which is not part of a group the sub-editing might be carried out by the chief reporter or deputy editor in conjunction with the editor.

When newspapers form part of a group the subbing is usually done at a central point.

The editor of each paper would decide on the layout and content of the front page and possibly two or three other important pages; a sports editor might do the same for the sports pages.

For the rest the chief sub and deputies on the top table would work on layouts and put copy instructions with the appropriate story to be worked on by downtable subs.

This was the way North Wales Newspapers operated and the subs were based at Oswestry.

Peter Leaney let me spend some time shadowing the subs on our weekly trips to head office. This was part of my training, and I cannot think of a more effective way of instilling a young reporter with the necessary fear and respect for the gods on the subs table.

At least the fear and respect they thought they were entitled to.

One good thing that came out of these sessions was that the chief sub told me I should get hold of a book called The Simple Subs Book by Leslie Sellers who worked at the Daily Mail.

He wasn’t suggesting I become a sub-editor, I was still on the lower end of the newspaper ladder. He did believe that an understanding of the sub-editor’s craft would make me a better reporter.

He was probably right.

I’ve still got the book, more than 50 years later.

It made interesting reading and certainly gave me an insight into the role of the sub-editor.

At that time, however, I was only interested in being a first-class reporter.

As it happened big changes were ahead of me as 1969 dawned.

I was about to say goodbye to my mentor Peter Leaney (although he still had a major part to play in my life in the 1970s); goodbye to my little fiefdom; and hello to a new role nearer home – much nearer home.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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