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Press sub-editor: job description

Press sub-editor: job description

Press sub-editors are journalists or designers 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 (or subs) are very different from assistant editors. They are less involved in generating editorial content and do not naturally progress to become editors.

What does a sub-editor job do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

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.

Typical employers of press sub-editors

  • Major newspapers
  • Large commercial publishing houses
  • Periodicals publishers
  • Smaller specialist and independent publishers

A significant number of sub-editors are freelance. Unlike many journalists, subs find it much easier to move between one-off and regular publications.

Vacancies are advertised online, in the publication that is recruiting, in national newspapers and publications such as Campaign, Newsweek, Press Gazette and their respective websites. Some employers operate graduate trainee schemes – early applications for such schemes are essential.

Many jobs receive little advertising, so networking and speculative applications are advisable. Directories such as Willings Press Guide and Benn’s Media may be useful for direct approaches to employers.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into this profession for both university graduates and school leavers. However, most new recruits have relevant vocational qualifications or are graduates.

A qualification accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) or an English or media studies degree may be advantageous. Other design, proofreading or subbing qualifications can 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 through placements or freelance and voluntary work with magazines, student or local newspapers.

To find out how to get into a career in this area via a school leaver route, visit the media section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.

Key skills for sub-editors

  • Determination
  • Resilience
  • Able to work under pressure and to tight deadlines
  • Excellent standard of grammar and spelling
  • An understanding of the law relating to publishing and journalism
  • Meticulous attention to detail
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • IT skills
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