Monday, April 13, 2009...8:11 am

Independent cuts sub-editors – and it shows

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Apparently desk editors at the Independent are to take on subbing duties at the paper, according to a Guardian story from April 1. That’s the sort of thing that should be an April Fool’s Day joke – but I found out it wasn’t when I was unlucky enough to buy a copy of the Indie on Easter Saturday (I was in London and wanted to get a What’s On-style guide, and I hate the Guardian, so I figured it was the next best option).

Anyway, I ended up glancing through the paper as well, you know, to get my money’s worth. The paper featured a double page interview with Nick Fraser, editor of the BBC documentary series Storyville about economics. Apart from the fact that he’s a convinced Keynesian, which is difficult to correct as you can’t sub people’s misapprehensions, I was shocked – shocked I say – to see the piece had numerous glaring subbing errors and literals towards the end. It’s as if the subs started well, and then gave up halfway through the piece. For example:

I absorbed the work of Keynes on the Central Line between power cuts during the Three Days’ Week.

Um. I think that was the Three-Day Week. A historic event that was probably before the time of whoever “subbed” this piece. Later (errors in bold):

The kinds of fake debt or securities legitimately traded has allure, it’s equivalents today “zombie bank” and “vulture fund”, have rather less.

(The whole sentence is garbled, but if anyone wonders why “it’s” is wrong, please don’t seek a job in newspapers).

And then:

This is what Liaquat Ahamed told me. “Economics doesn’t always tell you about wehat really happens. There are too many theorirsts and paractitioners concoct them to order.”

There was also a US spelling of characterized, but I think we’re a bit beyond that in terms of proofing crapness. Jesus. Come on guys – this is a national newspaper we’re reading here. 

I know I’m a sad obsessive (I mean, strictly speaking, I would have changed the headline from “Do economists know any more than us?” to “Do economists know any more that we?”), but this goes beyond a slip of the keyboard.

Those of you who are eagle-eyed enough to have actually read the story online on the Independent web site will have seen, with relief I hope, that the paper has corrected a number of the typos (though not, tellingly, the non-possessive “it’s”). 

It’s just more evidence that the problems with print journalism (too costly, too inflexible) may be too much to bear. Online-only Independent before too long? Contrary to its protestations, I wouldn’t be so surprised. Might even be a better paper…

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