Sunday, May 31, 2009...4:56 am

Why we still need sub-editors #1

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The first in a no doubt ongoing series, (which also happens to combine my hobby and my day job).

A bout of insomnia had me watching Channel 4 at an ungodly hour this morning. I managed to catch the second half of Psyche and Eros – an animated retelling of the ancient Greek myth (god falls in love with mortal, other gods interfere, visit to the Underworld, everything turns out all right, basically).

I’d never seen it before and was curious about the director, the late – as it turns out – Alison De Vere. So I looked her up.

Alison De Vere started at Halas and Batchelor in the ’50s, apparently, and then worked, with every other animator in London, on the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine (she animated the Blue Meanies, it seems). She went on to win the Grand Prix at Annecy in 1979 with Mr Pascal. Which makes her world famous in a low-key way.

Here’s where the subbing bit comes in.

In many of the references I found – Internet Movie Database, Answers.com –  her place of birth is listed as Pakistan. Which is odd, as she was born in 1927. Pakistan, as any sub (or indeed vaguely educated person) should know, didn’t exist then. 

Actually, as her obituary in the Guardian notes ( and I assume that is correct), she was born in Pashawar, which would then have been in the British Raj, to a British army officer. 

So whoever has taken this biographical detail and put it on the web in other reference sites has clearly thought: “Hmm – Peshawar. Where’s that? Oh, the Wikipedia says Pakistan.” and added it in for clarification. Without checking through the entry to look at its history and match the dates up. 

It’s a classic error that should be caught by a half decent sub-editor. And probably won’t be more and more often as subs are deemed a luxury we can’t afford in the media.  

More than that, as I’ve noted before, it’s as the process of subbing itself becomes devalued because subs end up doing everything on the production desk apart from actually sub-editing. 

More to come on this – especially stressing the importance of checking primary sources (which doesn’t include the BBC, for all neophyte journalists out there).

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