Rantings of a sub-editor

April 26, 2010

First shift at the Guardian

Filed under: Substuff says...,the Guardian — substuff @ 6:26 pm
Tags: ,

It was my first shift at the Guardian yesterday. Hmm… should I say ‘first’? Perhaps that’s a little presumptuous, as I don’t yet know if I am to be asked back. I worked at the Guardian yesterday, having never worked there before.

So… what was it like? Well, sparkly, for one thing. A beautiful wavy building, furnished inside like a super-fancy Ikea but without the cushion-fondlers and the screaming kids. Huge flatscreens on all the computers, high ceilings, glass walls, two cafeterias (two!). Very different from the cosy dishevelment of The Times, where papers pile high on desks and there are nooks and crannies everywhere. I had a chuckle when I heard the staff complaining about the quality of the cafeteria food on Sundays – best they never pay a visit to Grocer Towers in rural Crawley, where you pin your hopes on the sandwich lady and pray you don’t get a phone call just as she rolls through with her trolley.

The organisation of the copy flow is amazing. There is a content management system called Octopus that (from what I could work out) everyone uses at the same time – reporters, section editors, subs and revise subs. It prevents those InCopy glitches where two people accidentally check in to a story at the same time and wipe out each other’s work (yes, I know that officially can’t happen, but it does, repeatedly). You see something become available, you take it. When you’re finished with it, you check it back in, but to the revise subs’ folder. The quality of the copy is extremely good, which makes it pleasant to sub but harder to cut. There are no paper proofs and no red pen – not that I saw, anyway.

The downside? Well, I felt like a very small fish in a gigantic pond, which was uncomfortable but to be expected, naturally. And it was very quiet. I am used to working while Kit and Vince weigh up the latest Doctor Who before going their separate ways to respectively practise Arabic and chew on Transformers, the art desk have deep discussions about football and breasts and someone at the other end of the room howls in rage over a misspelling. There were no arguments about whose tea round it was – in fact, there was no tea round at all.

I’m not sure how well I did. The sub charged with my care did give me the thumbs up at the end of the shift, but I wish I’d asked him whether I had been fast enough – I suspect I was slow, as I was being so paranoid about getting everything right. And did I get it right? That’s another thing I should have asked. I bought the paper today and I think only a couple of my headlines had been rewritten, plus one introduction where some words I had cut had been reinstated. Overall, I’m hopeful that I did pretty well.

Fingers crossed for an invitation back.



  1. What I would give to work at the Guardian. Was lucky enough to spend two weeks subbing as a work placement – a fantastic experience. I’m sure if I could survive a couple weeks as an intern, you will get a call back!

    I agree with what you say about the tea rounds…strange lack of but not a deal breaker. Also agree with the ‘sparkly’ nature of the building. I’m just glad I’m not the one who has to go around wiping greasy fingerprints off the glass…but maybe I’m getting confused with the kids of Ikea…


    Comment by James — April 26, 2010 @ 7:43 pm | Reply

  2. Sounds very much like sticky fingerprints anywhere other than the keyboard would not be permitted. Great opportunity though – well done! The first day, and I’m sure there will be more, is bound to be the most difficult.

    Comment by Stefmez — April 26, 2010 @ 9:40 pm | Reply

  3. Well done. Interesting report.

    Although, you left out some important details such as the massive poster of Harman with the eyes that seem to follow you around. And the posters of Jacqui Smith, with the eyes that really do follow you around due to the small cameras in them.

    I would have thought the catering at the Guardian would consist of a constant wine and cheese party 😉

    Comment by Michael Reed — April 27, 2010 @ 3:26 pm | Reply

  4. The invitation has been issued and gratefully received. Woop! Must keep an eye out for cheese, wine and posters next time. 😉

    Comment by substuff — April 27, 2010 @ 6:38 pm | Reply

  5. Yay!

    Comment by Michael Reed — April 27, 2010 @ 8:44 pm | Reply

  6. Hi Ron,

    Comments like this are not welcome on my blog, so I have deleted it. There are better forums in which to criticise publications, and my ignorance or otherwise is not yours to question.




    Comment by substuff — August 8, 2011 @ 7:32 am | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: