Rantings of a sub-editor

May 5, 2010

Gimme a P!

Filed under: drop caps,oops! — substuff @ 8:24 am
Tags: ,

The subs at the Daily Utah Chronicle clearly had something to communicate.



  1. Hey Substuff, very good but, I suspect, after your Excel wranglings . . . is this a little nearer the mark?

    Also reminds me of: “The pen is mightier than the sword”. Just make sure you get the right words on the appropriate deck of the headline.

    PS Currently listening to coverage of all those voters disenfranchised by being unable to vote for the Page 3 girls. Storm in a C cup perhaps?

    Unfortunately, there was no candidate on the ballot sheet that enabled me to vote for “AK47” when it comes to bankers and politicians. I may be a vice-chancellor but how far does it have to go before young people get annoyed these days? Take away their rights to attend Glastonbury?

    Comment by Vice-Chancellor — May 6, 2010 @ 11:54 pm | Reply

    • I love the James May thing! Never seen that before – jeez, I’m not surprised he got sacked.

      As someone who recently bid her twenties goodbye, I’m not sure that I quite have the right to speak for young people – but I’ll give you my tuppence worth anyway. How can young people get annoyed when they are so alienated from the political process? I was not taught a thing about politics in school – and I’m pretty sure this hasn’t changed, as my brother, who is ten years younger, wasn’t either. So unless you’re from a political family, you arrive at voting age knowing precisely nothing except that it is your duty to vote. Not helpful.

      My first attempt at ‘informing’ myself was at university, where I vowed to read the Guardian every day until I understood what it meant – except it doesn’t work like that. If your knowledge base is zero, it’s almost impossible to comprehend what the articles mean. Even the job titles mean nothing to you (and this was before I discovered Wikipedia!). I learnt a few things – what ‘shadow’ meant, what a few people did, etc, but I soon lost interest because the more I tried to understand, the stupider I felt. I tried again, aged 26, when I arrived back in England after a couple of years working abroad. I started listening to Radio 4 and slowly things started sinking in. But it’s only in the past two years that I can honestly say I’ve had any idea what is going on in the country – and that’s thanks to having a desk job and therefore the opportunity to check the news online at least once a day.

      Basically, it took me ten years (and the surrendering of my ‘young person’ status) to get to a point where I could approach an election in a fairly well informed state. And although I’m sure I could have done more, earlier, to inform myself, I also suspect that I did more than most people from my educational background.

      So… what I’m saying is, if we want young people to get involved in (and annoyed by) politics, we first need to tell them what is going on, how things work, and what the hell it all means. If the system doesn’t think you’re worth informing, it’s hard to imagine that it values your opinion. So why on Earth is politics not on the National Curriculum? It really should be.

      Comment by substuff — May 9, 2010 @ 12:55 pm | Reply

  2. Oh dear… looks like not everyone saw the funny side… http://www.cityweekly.net/utah/blog-3544-chronicle-staff-investigated-for-penis-gag.html

    Comment by substuff — May 10, 2010 @ 9:18 am | Reply

  3. Glad you liked the Captain Slow stuff. Seems like protesting didn’t do his career any harm . . .

    You make some really good points about politics and young people. And I really admire your honesty about your past political naivety. If only our politicians (and bankers) were so honest. Reminds me of the advice of a senior reporter when I first started out who said to me: “Never back out of asking the most simple questions even if you think it will make you look stupid: nine times out of ten they will be the questions that most people won’t want to answer.”

    My favourite being (as a rookie chief sub) challenging my editor over an acronym.

    Me: “What does it stand for?”

    Him: “Everybody knows what it stands for.”

    Me: “Spell it out for me word by word.”

    Him: “I don’t know.”

    I think you are absolutely right about teaching useful and meaningful stuff in schools like:

    How to change a fuse in a plug; cook; manage a budget; work with people even when you disagree with them; and, last but not least, use an apostrophe and other ridiculously simple but important things (when you understand them) like commas as your News of the World post demonstrates.

    I learnt stuff in Geography O Level that even 99.9% of geographers wouldn’t need to know in their whole career. Similarly, six months on a subs’ desk taught me more about the English language than A Level Language and Literature put together. Total time: three years.

    I guess I’m just frustrated that young people I come across today (and I mean 16 to 18-year-olds usually on work experience) don’t appear to be angry about two of the biggest scandals in recent UK political history . . . the MPs’ expenses scandal and the ‘banking crisis’.

    You say: “If the system doesn’t think you’re worth informing, it’s hard to imagine that it values your opinion.”

    If those young people feel that disenfranchised how come they are not angry about the politicians and the bankers being caught with their noses in the trough? Especially if those youngsters have been to college and come out to find there are no jobs. What happened to dissent and protest? Where were the students on the streets?

    Dissent is good for any healthy regime: imagine South Africa without the anti-apartheid movement.

    I guess I’m just asking how much crap can young people take? A lot, it would seem.

    PS A minor point about your reply but an important one in this context. You do not have a duty to vote. You have a right to vote because women died under the hooves of horses.

    Sometimes the disenfranchised are prepared to pay with their lives: but they can often change the world as a result.

    I’m not asking your average O Level Maths student to jump under the favourite in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. But throwing a pebble at the nearest RBS building (now that they have started paying themselves bonuses again) wouldn’t go amiss.

    PS If you haven’t already done so, pick up a copy of Keith Waterhouse’s “On Newspaper Style”. Somehow I suspect you might like it.

    All the best Substuff. Keep up the good work! V-C

    Comment by Vice-Chancellor — May 12, 2010 @ 10:54 pm | Reply

    • Oh, tosh! [You will notice that even though you have made a lot of good points and I agree with 95% of your comment, it is the 5% I don’t agree with that I am going to respond to immediately – just my nature, I’m afraid.]

      It depends how you define ‘right’. I believe I have the human right to vote because it is, well, right, as I’m sure the ladies Pankhurst would agree. Yes, women died for the vote, which needless to say is hugely admirable, but it is not that action that gives us the right. The right was there already, it was just denied until 1918 (although it continued to be denied to women aged under 30 or occupying premises of a yearly value of less than £5 until 1928).

      As for ‘duty’, I used this word as it represents my experience of the not-young’s attitude towards young people voting. Tell someone that you might not vote and the response will often feature “it’s your duty”, or the old “if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain” chestnut, which is almost the same thing.

      Ah, I will respond to your other comments too, but right now it is time to gobble muesli and run to the station!

      Comment by substuff — May 13, 2010 @ 6:34 am | Reply

  4. Tosh indeed, lol.

    “I believe I have the human right to vote because it is, well, right”

    Since when has it been a human right to vote? When people lived in caves I take it they voted on the big decisions and agreed it was their right to do so?

    If you have a right to vote (as you do) it exists precisely because people have agreed that you have that right . . . not because it exists just because you are human.

    In totalitarian regimes you don’t have that right (whether you think you have it or not).

    And it’s definitely not my duty to vote: it’s my choice. There’s no moral obligation. I may simply choose not to.

    What other rights are you entitled to by virtue of being human? They must exist (pre suffrage) as you say. What are they exactly and who agreed on them? Make sure you cover the North Koreans and Chinese in your list. And don’t bother citing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 . . . after all that’s just something that everyone decided to agree on after the Second World War (ie an abstract concept).

    Anyway, I’ll start you off . . .

    1 The right to vote
    2 The right to eat muesli before going to work

    Feel free to give me feedback on the other 95% in the meantime.

    V-C 😉

    Comment by Vice-Chancellor — May 13, 2010 @ 11:57 pm | Reply

    • Sigh sigh sigh.

      Society evolves just as language evolves, and what can be expected from a system does so along with it. Do I think people sat in caves and voted? Um… let me think about that – if, obviously, my teeny tiny brain is capable of it. (Why don’t you just pat me on the head and say “there, there” while you’re at it?)

      As I think I made clear, it does depend on how you define ‘right’ – human rights, legal rights, divine rights, copyrights…

      I for one am going to look to Richard Littlejohn for guidance on my rights in future. My Yuman Rites, as he would say. http://rantingsubs.com/2010/05/14/yuman-rites/

      Comment by substuff — May 14, 2010 @ 8:57 am | Reply

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