bigfootyCrikey Sports has the pleasure of having a guest post by Jamie Johnstone, a blogger at BigFooty, Australia’s largest and most popular AFL internet forum.

This post was first published at BigFooty.

BigFooty’s Jamie Johnstone writes:

Fairfax Media’s decision to outsource its subediting work threatens to damage our enjoyment of Australian Rules football.

That Fairfax would allow a competitor in News Limited, a key shareholder in Pagemasters (the company taking over Fairfax’s subbing) inside the tent speaks volumes about how short-sighted the deal is.

I’ve not always been the biggest fan of The Age in this column. But sacking the subs is not something any real footy fan wants to see.

The subs are the lifeblood of a newspaper, especially a daily. Amazingly, reporters occasionally (usually) submit copy that isn’t 100 per cent accurate. It can contain typos, it may have factual errors, it might run too long and sometimes parts of it might be, well, a bit shit.

This is especially true for desperately time sensitive material like footy reporting. Footy journos have exceptionally short turnarounds. When your team pulls off a stunning win on Saturday you want to luxuriate in bed on Sunday morning and read about it.

That you can is partially down to the industriousness and talent of the footy reporter. But like the origins of the sausage on your barbie, most of us don’t want to think about the process required to make those words appear on the page.

While then journos work very hard writing and rewriting copy amid the ebb and flow of games, and then attending post-match press conferences for the coaches colour, it is the subs who work the real magic.

The snappy headline that encapsulates 120 minutes of pulsating action in six words over two decks? That’s the subs. The re-ordering of the story to put the coaches controversial comments higher up? The sub. That mortifying mix up of Selwoods made entirely unintentionally in the white heat of a pendulum deadline? Fixed by the subs.

The problem with Fairfax outsourcing its subbing is that those skills will no longer necessarily be there. No doubt the good folk at Pagemasters work hard and take pride in their work.

They won’t be Age subs though. Based outside of the office, they might not know the catastrophe of transposing Scott for Joel. They won’t know how to employ a player’s nickname in a headline. They don’t have the memory, they aren’t a living, breathing part of the paper.

This is why we need the Fairfax subs. Even at an unconscious level Greg Hywood, embattled supremo of the cash-strapped Fairfax empire (two can play at that game), knows this. That’s why he got a professional with an intuitive understanding of his local market in Sue Cato to sub the notice he sent to Fairfax staff informing them of the cuts.

That’s the future that may await us footy fans when the subs go. Errors, poor writing, a generally lower standard of product. A loss for the footy reading public in other words.

And lest I be accused of simply lamenting the event without offering a solution — here’s one.

To preserve the integrity that the subs bring to The Age’s footy pages, Fairfax needs only make a simple change to its plans.

Caro Wilson’s salary could be instead used to employ a few dedicated footy subs. Her “stories” could easily be divided up among the quality journalists on the desk like Jake Niall, Emma Quayle and Rohan Connolly.

And Cameron Noakes too. Not funny, rarely accurate, read by nobody.

Keep a few more subs that way.

Everybody wins. Even management.