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Sunday, December 4, 2011

What it means to be a newspaper sub-2

In What it means to be a newspaper sub-1, Commits alumnus Debmalya Dutta (Class of 2011) offered personal insights into the duties and responsibilities of a newspaper sub. Here, his senior, SHERRY-MARY JACOB (Class of 2007), who is a senior sub with The Times of India in Bangalore, writes about the most vital part of the job:

SHERRY-MARY JACOB
If you thought subbing is easy, think again. We all know that one of the responsibilities of subs is to act as gatekeepers. But there's more to “gatekeeping” than just publishing authenticated news. The challenge begins with us trying to figure out what a reporter is trying to convey. This is the most vital part of our job; after all, it is the sub who acts as a conduit between the reporter and reader.      

To understand better what it is we do, I have given below two versions of a crime story. The first version is the report that was submitted to the news desk; the second version is the edited story that was published in the paper. (I should make it clear here that it's the reporter's job to get us the right facts the news reports do not necessarily have to be written in flawless English. At ToI, we have some of the hardest-working and most intelligent reporters in the city who submit the best newsworthy stories every day, which is reflected in our daily editions.)

RAW VERSION
Mandya: In an allegedly intentional fire happening, miscreants set a gift shop ablaze at Sangam, a tourist place on the banks of Cauvery river near Srirangapatna town on Friday night.

According to SI Ramesh, a gift shops belongs to the one Ajay who was gutted in the fire. Ajay in his complaint alleged that three known human beings to him set his shop ablaze as they developed a grudge behind him. Ajay said in his complaint that items worth Rs more than Rs 2 lakh also destroyed.

Based on complaint, we arrested Naveen, Paramesh and Krishna. We are interrogat the arrested persons also calculating the actual loss occurred to complainant, Ramesh said.

A case has been registered in Srirangapatna police station.

EDITED VERSION

Miscreants set gift shop ablaze

Mandya: A few miscreants set a gift shop ablaze on Friday night at Sangam, a tourist spot on the banks of the Cauvery near Srirangapatna.

Sub-inspector Ramesh said the shop belongs to one Ajay. In his complaint, Ajay has charged three persons, who are known to him, with committing the crime. He said the three men were nursing a grudge against him. Gift articles worth over Rs 2 lakh have been gutted, he said.

Acting on the complaint, police have arrested Naveen, Paramesh and Krishna. Ramesh said they are interrogating the trio. A case has been registered at the Srirangapatna police station.

This is just one of the stories that landed in my lap the other day. Of course, I have seen worse. There was one which began with this killer line: "A case of forceful enjoyment was filed." What the reporter meant to convey was that a case of rape had been filed.

We generally get 20 to 30 such news reports (each could be 800 words long), which have to be edited in two hours. Sounds bad? You think our job sucks? Well, it certainly doesn't! We wait to get our hands on such stories so that we can bring some sparkle to them.

In conclusion, let me say that subbing is more than just knowing how to use QuarkXPress, placing words on the page, and writing a few headlines. It's like solving a puzzle. It's interesting, challenging, and, in many ways, a stress-buster.