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Art of Sub Editing and Rewriting of News

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The Art of Sub-Editing

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The subeditors may be male, middle-aged, who worked on the news pages of a national newspaper and they are the journalists who check, polish and correct stories written by the reporters. The sub-editor is a person who prepares copy for the press. There are various sources for the news. Some of them are reporters, telephone, fax, email, internet, news agencies, correspondents, stringers, unexpected sources etc. The main job of the sub-editors is to make news story suitable for publication. The sub-editors write headlines for those stories and sometimes they decide how to arrange stories and pictures on a page. They help day-to-day editorial writing according to their beats. A special talent and knowledge of different levels is needed for the art of sub-editing. The sub-editing must have the different qualities, like versatility, good work attitude, willingness to collaborate across the newsroom. He must have free eyes to discover errors, deadline conscious performance, knowledge of current events and willingness to take responsibilities for finding solutions to the workplace. Similarly, here are some of the things that the sub-editors should do.

  • The least important stories are written in many pages. The sub-editors have to cut out the redundancy part and make the story in the available news. Such stories may be placed in the inside pages or excluded if news hole is not available.

  • The important news stories are sometimes written in few sentences or paragraphs. The sub-editors have to lengthen the news according to the importance of the news value and lengthen the news according to the news hole. The sub-editors may have to collect more information to cover the available news hole.

  • The important information may sometimes be written in the blunt language. The sub-editors have to re-write such stories according to the principle of the inverted pyramid structure. The sub-editors should simplify difficult words and sentences structures into audience-friendly ones.

  • There are also some stories that crossed legal boundaries. It can be motivated to libel and defamation. The sub-editors should consult with an executive editor or chief editor about such matter. They should promptly contact the assigned legal advisor if they are really confused in legal provision.

  • The Sub-editors should be enough thoughtful to the societal feelings as some of the stories are indigestible to the society and culture. The media has to suffer hard if the feelings of the society are injured. Local people do not support such media. They do not write against the social custom and ritual in harsh and direct language.

  • The stories which are forced by some pressure groups, parties, institutions or organizations. In such stories, the sub-editors must be careful to do any action to such groups. They should take suggestions from the executive or chief editor.

  • Some stories or information of regular advertisers and some donors which the media house can’t ignore must be presented as ‘vested news’. Media house can’t ignore them. They should be published with due importance.

  • Some of the stories which are important to publish may be yet to verify. Some information is best presented by including some portrait, graphic, cartoon, picture etc.

  • The sub-editors should make phone calls themselves or ask some beat editors to verify the particular information. In the case of illustration, they ask for graphic designer or cartoonist.

The process of sub-editing

The sub-editing is a learning by doing process. Sub-editing needs clear, brief, accurate, errorless writing and presentation of information. Some of the points of sub-edit are as follows:

  1. Prefer active over passive voice and use strong verbs.
  2. Check the adjectives, adverbs and prepositional phrases. Use nouns and verbs than to adjectives and adverbs.
  3. Use short sentences.
  4. Balance long sentences with short ones. Monotony in sentence length puts the reader to sleep.
  5. Be Straightforward. It is necessary to take the most direct route between subject, verb and object.
  6. Avoid jargons, pompous, phrases and generalities.
  7. Read and rewrite what you have written.
  8. Use transitions.
  9. It is necessary to be precise.
  10. It is necessary to use short and familiar words rather than long and unfamiliar ones.
  11. Read the story aloud.
  12. Beware of errors.

Rewriting of News



The principles of rewriting are the same as those for good news writing. If a story does not conform to acceptable news writing standards, it should be rewritten and made to do so. Good writing needs practice. For gathering information and writing the news story the reporters have to spend hours. The rewriting of the effective news story are listed below:

1. Read the story aloud

The best way to test the clarity and grace is reading aloud. By reading the story loud, we can know about the sentences, paragraph confusing, mistakes. Historian Bardara Tuchman said-“ After seven years’ apprenticeship in journalism, I have discovered that essential elements of good writing are a good ear. One must listen to one’s own prose.”

2. Check the sentences

It is necessary to check the sentences. The length of the sentences should be verified. Reader comprehension decreases as sentence length increases. The full stop is one of the clear writer's best friends.

3. Check the writing for clutter

It is necessary to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. The phrases, jargon, redundancies, long words of the story must be checked. The gardener knows that he must thin his plants after the first seedlings appear. Otherwise, his entire crop will suffer. The same holds true for writing.

4. Use SVO pattern

The careful writer is precise. A writer must be selective with his/her words. Ask these questions to make sure you have been precise. Make sure that you have used SVO( subject –verb- object) construction in most of your sentences.

5. Avoid libel

The Truth is the best defense against libel. As we know that knowing it and proving it are two different things. Be certain you can prove what you publish. If you repeat a libelous statement, you can be liable even though it is attributed. Disclaimers such as ‘ it is alleged” or “ it is reported’ won’t save you. Libel usually results from carelessness, exaggerated writing, statements of officials made outside privileged situations. (Binaya Devkota)

References

Binay Devkota, and Leelawati Khadka. Acharya, B.B. Mass Communication. Kathmandu, Nepal: Pradhan Book House, Exhibition Road, Kathmandu, Nepal, First Edition 2066(2009). 232 - 235. Electronic.



  1. The subeditors may be  male, middle-Aged, who worked on the news pages of a national newspaper.
  2. Sub-editors are the journalists who check, polish and correct stories written by the reporters.
  3.  The sub-editing must have the  different qualities, like Versatility, good work attitude, willingness to collaborate across the newsroom.
  4. The sub-editors must have free eyes to discover errors, deadline conscious performance, knowledge of current events and willingness to take responsibilities for finding solutions to the workplace. 
  5.  The sub-editors should simplify difficult words and sentences structures into audience-friendly ones.
  6.  The Sub-editors should be enough thoughtful to the societal feelings as some of the stories are indigestible to the society and culture. 
  7.  Sub-editing needs clear, brief, accurate, errorless writing and presentation of information. 
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