I SPENT quite a lot of my working life on the production side of tabloid newspapers – as a sub-editor and night editor.
As you will know, that means getting paid to play with words. Re-telling stories in the most easily digestible form; making them considerably shorter but still just as informative. And writing catchy headings.
However, times change and for me the realisation that late night production shifts weren’t compatible with small children came at about the same time the Daily Mirror decided it wasn’t entirely compatible with a Scottish edition. So I moved on.
And now a great chunk of the work I do is online – writing web content and blogs for other people.
But the move hasn’t been that big a leap because the skills that make a good blogger or internet copywriter are exactly the same as the ones that make a good tabloid sub.
An instinct for story telling. It’s crucial to understand, deep down, what it is you’re saying. What’s the story or the post about? Who did what to whom? Not just the topic headline but exactly the point you are making.
Can write for toffee. Or anything else. We’re not aiming for the Booker Prize here, but it’s quite important to be able to string a sentence together. And to spell, a bit.
Can see things from the other side. Tabloid folk know how to get out from behind the paper and see what the reader sees. They – and those who blog – must understand how to provide their reader with what they want, how to answer their questions and entertain.
The ability to grab attention. Of course you can write a headline that makes people itch to read on. The same thing applies online. Websites on a browser, like tabloids on a newsstand, only have a titchy smidge of time to capture a reader before they move on to the next shiny thing.
Understanding images. A good picture will always beat words, however beautifully crafted. We get that.
Happy to get down and dirty. Obviously, one day I will be a revered author of great literary fiction. However, until then, I’d rather have people read stuff I’ve written because it’s funny, pithy and interesting. Who wants high-brow, when there’s fun to be had?
Subs can also work fast, punctuate properly and swear extravagantly. All of which can come in handy.
As printed newspapers make their undignified way to the exit, many of my former colleagues sit in increasingly empty newsrooms wondering what the future holds.
The public will always need interesting and entertaining information delivered in the easiest possible way. And, as ever, the best people to do that for them are tabloid subs.
Ellen Arnison worked for the Daily Star of Scotland and the Scottish Daily Mirror. She now works freelance, including writing, subbing, search engine optimisation, brand journalism, ghost blogging, blogging, copywriting and social media. She is the author of ‘Blogging for Happiness: A Guide to Improving Positive Mental Health (and Wealth) from Your Blog’.