News Limited’s bold experiment with centralised sub-editing is over, four years after it began.
The NewsCentral “sub hubs” — launched in Queensland in 2009 before being rolled out across the country — are being dismantled this month. Sixty five jobs will be lost on top of the 500 editorial jobs the journalists’ union estimates the company shed last year. Brisbane is hardest hit with around 30 jobs set to go.
Subediting has traditionally been done in-house by newspapers; News Ltd tried establishing pools of subs which edited copy from different newspapers. Not any more.
The backflip, outlined in this memo, will see metro papers such as The Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun and Courier-Mail again perform key sub-editing tasks in-house. A new role known as “news producer” will be created, combining sub-editing and digital production tasks. Text subbing for regional papers, which had been performed by NewsCentral, is being shifted to the AAP-owned Pagemasters. Subbing for News’ community titles was outsourced to Pagemasters last year.
The dismantling of NewsCentral comes as News prepares to launch its new publishing system, Eidos Methode, in July.
Paul Murphy, the head of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance media division told Crikey: “It is very disappointing to see News Limited going further down the path of outsourcing. The loss of editorial expertise and experience will be felt heavily.”
The creation of NewsCentral Queensland in 2009 represented an exciting yet controversial departure from traditional practice. South Australia and Victorian sub hubs then followed before NSW centralised operations in early 2011. Under this structure, sub-editing was organised by state rather than masthead, meaning a sub could edit copy from the Herald Sun one minute and the Geelong Advertiser the next.
At the time staff complained to Crikey of a loss of specialisation and the demise of the traditional mentoring role subs played in the newsroom. But NewsCentral staff were also proud of their work, with sub hubs seen as a better option than outsourcing subbing to external firms.
“It worked very well,” said a former News staffer involved in the creation of NewsCentral. “There were criticisms the quality wasn’t as good; that editors had lost control of their publications. But by and large we were doing things more efficiently.”