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Press sub-editing: graduate area of work

Press sub-editors are responsible for overseeing the content, accuracy, layout and design of newspaper and magazine articles and making sure that they are in keeping with 'house style'.

Sub-editors work for organisations such as major newspapers, large commercial publishing houses, periodicals publishers and smaller specialist/independent publishers. A significant number of sub-editors are freelance.

Typical responsibilities of the job include:

  • writing, rewriting, editing and proofreading text
  • making sure that ‘house style’ is adhered to
  • writing headlines, picture captions and story summaries
  • editing reports and press releases
  • liaising with journalists, reporters and editors
  • verifying information and story details
  • gathering and preparing routine information including sports results
  • designing page layouts
  • ensuring that stories are the right length and correctly placed on pages
  • sizing photographs and placing them within features
  • making sure that stories are accurate and do not compromise legality.

What's required

Although it is possible to enter the profession without a degree, most new recruits have relevant vocational qualifications or are graduates/postgraduates. A qualification accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) or an English or media studies degree may be advantageous. Specialist knowledge or a scientific or technical background may be required for opportunities with some publications.

It is essential to gain prior relevant experience via placements or freelance/voluntary work with magazines, student or local newspapers etc. All candidates must be determined, resilient and able to handle pressure with meticulous attention to detail and excellent oral/written communication, interpersonal and IT skills.

Where to find out more

Candidates need enthusiasm, stamina and perseverance as jobs attract severe competition - hundreds of applications may be received for each advertised position and many more speculatively. Vacancies are advertised via the Internet, in the publication that is recruiting, in national newspapers and publications such as Media Week, Newsweek and Press Gazette.

Many jobs receive little advertising, so networking and speculative applications are advisable. Directories such as Willings Press Guide and Benn’s Media Directory may be useful for direct approaches to employers. Some employers operate graduate trainee schemes – early applications for such schemes are essential.