An Old Newspaperman’s Lament

Another guest post – today from The Pub’s special correspondent Scringler. Many thanks, sir!

FOR my sins, I found myself many moons ago as Deputy Features Editor on a major daily tabloid rag.

(I began in newspapers as a cadet then staff photographer on a major broadsheet daily in the mid 1960s. Yep, Leicas!)

Jumping forward. The then editor of the tabloid was a good bloke, steeped in the ethics and craft of journalism. He was the last of the breed.

The next editor was a notorious piss-pot. As an editor, he had the makings of a half-suitable, down-table sub. He knew his commas. (Years later, he reappeared on another newspaper – as a down-table sub. It was a sorry sight.)


This was a time when newspapers were fiddling with computers. As a youngish stick-in-the mud I, along with my colleagues, poured shit on the concept of computers replacing linotype machines. Hardly decent.

However, in my “responsible” position, I became a guinea pig. There was this computer guru who believed that newspapers could be produced – on a computer! What a dickhead!

Then I was given a tour of the inner sanctum – the computer room. Two massive units, both with cosy names … bloody scary. Shit. Welcome to future shock.

Later, the guru presented me with some yarn or other for the next edition. It was on a disc, or something. I peered at the words on a tiny computer screen – and recklessly pressed the tit.

This is a big claim, and open to correction, but I think I might have been responsible for the first-ever, computer-produced page published in a major metropolitan newspaper. Sorry.

It looked like shit. A great wodge of daunting type. Dense. Like a Paul Kelly or a Michelle Grattan special – with extra fog.

But what I failed to realise was that it was an omen of things to come. When the time-honoured checks and balances would be phased out.

That night, when the organ was printed, during a special committee meeting after midnight at the pub, upstairs in the Press Bar, I copped sustained, heavy flak.

Details are somewhat vague. Suffice to say that the ultimate view was: This shit won’t work.

It all went downhill from there. As was our wont, we had several for the road. One or two for the New Guinea Potoroo, poor little endangered bastard.

Then … various threatened birds.

We were prize dills.


Years earlier, I found myself subbing on a regional daily. One hazy afternoon, subbing stuff, half asleep … the chief sub fell on the floor. And went, sort of, pink. This was unusual.

Of course, we were somewhat concerned. We did notice that he had a slip of copy paper clutched tightly in his hand.

The paper, at that time, retained a dear old soul who wrote the wedding notes. Marg was a product of a sheltered life, not a nasty bone in her body. She saw, she reported.

Marg regarded sub-editors as a form of low life, cockroach level, and would not allow changes to her copy.


Moving on … Editors came and went. Not your normal run of piss-pots. Rather, hard-edged arseholes with an agenda. One, I believe, fled west.

Several years earlier, along with about six others, I was declared “redundant” by a Murdoch publication.

Out of the blue. Whack.

My colleagues transported me to the Celtic Club for calming ales. We were, I now realise, in shock.

The act was brief and brutal. I was given no time to clear my desk.

I could not collect my belongings. The front door was secured by … guards. Yes. Possibly armed.

Get fucked, said my colleagues: suffice to say, my meagre possessions were, in due course, returned. Thanks for that experience Rupert, you prick.

My late partner, Jo Anne, picked me up after this episode.

Jo Anne seethed for many years about this and never forgave. Jo Anne was a champion hater, blessed with a long memory. She loathed Abbott. “A poor excuse for a man.”


Anyway, much later, I joined the mob up the road. The chief sub, an honourable bloke with more than a passing interest in quality journalism, shouted me a beer or two in the Bog Bar. It was good and pleasant company.

Then, a tour of the premises. At this point, it must be admitted, your correspondent was nudging non-walking mode.

I bought a linotype machine. For 50 bucks. They were lined up in a loading bay, ready for collection by a scrap-metal merchant.


Then came years of hard slog. Wading through great gobs of text, written by ego-besotted wankers.

This was the era of the “downsizing” fad. Anyone aged 30 was considered old and smelly.

Part of a sub’s job is to check the use of foreign words, in this case French.

Forget the word but, upon checking, it was not only wrong, it contradicted the author’s premise.

I had a friendly chat with the author, and she said: “Yes. I know. But I like the look of the word.”

At this point, I gave up. What is the point?

Not long after, I resigned and, after more hard slog, became an archaeologist/specialist photographer.

As someone famously said: “The answer lies in the soil.”


Looking back, I’m grateful I saw true craftsmen in action. (Sorry, very few women about in those days). The linotype operators, the bloke operating the Ludlow machine, the dedicated readers, the whole system of checks and balances.

Oh, and … I never did get my linotype machine. Never trust a journalist.


Oh, before I forget. On the slip of copy paper, neatly typed, Marg wrote: “Beryl walked down the aisle with her hands in her furry muff.”

This taught me a lesson about subbing. READ. EVERY. WORD.

We revived the chief sub and took beer in order to work out a strategy to tackle Marg and the necessary change to her copy.

You see, subs were human.

(Photo credit: Weddingbee)


1,453 thoughts on “An Old Newspaperman’s Lament

  1. If Justice Leveson and Mr J QC, did the Australian gig, I would set up camp outside the front door for the duration. I would save a seat for Duckie. We spent many an hour following proceedings. I put it as the viewing highlight of 2011.

  2. IF Tony Abbott was at Beersheba, you know where he would have been during THAT charge? Hiding behind a rock with his head up his horse’s arse.

  3. so its pre recorded, what sort of leader has pre recorded
    interviews, none that I have been aware,

    not leadership material that’s for sure
    gee I hope the tweeters are our in force

  4. whats this mockery of these kids dressing up in army uniforms,

    what next pretend bombs, how disgraceful

    I thought I was illegal any way to put a on a uniform when not inlisted

  5. Leigh reads from cur cards.

    Abbott answers in slogans.

    Now she’s letting him spruik the bullshit.


  6. Tony Abbott ‏@TonyAbbottMHR 10m

    Interview with @leighsales about to air on @abc730. Good to chat about our Real Solutions plan for Australia #abc730

    You know, just reading that tweet horrifies me. It’s a puerile thing for him to say. Firstly because he’s been talking about that bloody Real Solutions plan for about three months and hasn’t actually said a thing. And secondly because it means there’s no point watching the interview, and therefore no point him even agreeing to have it. So many unanswered questions,and he thinks he can slip a bland chinwag about nothing past us. And thirdly because, well, look at the accompanying photo. Brainlessness personified.

  7. { Education is the silver bullet, education is everything.

    In a country of 1.24 billion people, there are more university educated Indians than there are residents on Australia’s east coast.

    But it’s more than that – India is the world’s largest democracy and if it succeeds in producing the most educated population, it’ll be a model for the world – A model for how a democratic country lifts itself out of poverty, not just through industry but through investing in a knowledge economy. }

    This country was making a motsa out of providing advanced education to students from countries like India.

    Bogans with some degree of influence from right wing drongos (mainly in talk-back radio) encouraged brain dead misfits to assault & sometimes kill people that trusting parents sent out here to get an advanced education.

    Indians are far from slow learners and have decided that they can educate their own people in their own country at a fraction of the cost of exporting that facility to places like Australia.

    Currently they are building domestic Universities at the rate that the Chinese are building Power Stations.

    Alan Jones & Co. You are so far from doing the rank & file Australians that you profess to stand up for, that it is not funny.

    If there was some way that I could instantly vaporise you & your fellow travelers, I would do it in a heartbeat!

    Unfortunately I won’t be around but I would dearly love to know how history will treat these cretins in years to come when people were able to wake up to how they were deceived by these bought & paid for traitors.

  8. I case no one else saw it I am refering to the abc news where I saw very young people
    dressing up in army uniforms first I thought it was real
    but then I could the ages, the only way I would excuse it , if it was
    school cadets

    any one know

  9. we should try and ridicule his solution slogan on twitter

    any ideas

    solutions like no nbn, living in cave,, no more money for education

    big money for rich mums to stay at home

    the solution for the rest eat cake

  10. love to tweet sales and ask her was she given the script

    and a list of question , before he agreed and agreed to be very nice

  11. gee I thought barry had retired he could of done abbott interview

    they may have enjoyed each other compnay

  12. So I am following the interview on Twitter. I think it will tell me all I need to know. It sounds like he’s treading water. Most of his interviews – when they happen – are like a rat in a maze. He’s knows there’s only one way he can get out of it alive and if he turns down the wrong conversational path he’s dead. So he carefully steps out his path, stops, looks around for a moment, steps carefully down the next one. He usually bumps into the electrified wall once or twice, but eventually he emerges at the other end more or less in one piece, grinning like a buffoon. That for him is politics.

    In comparison, Gillard has to cross a high-wire with no net, blindfolded, with both legs tied together, and people throwing things at her.

  13. Carine has the ‘store’ sorted either way.

    Whether she did or didn’t works.

    She can say Sherbourne didn’t turn up or was a limp dick.

    Being a lawyer in London is ‘watch out’.

  14. I think Abbott was using an earwig – like this.

    We could not see his right ear, he was angled to keep it away from the camera. His speech was hesitant, as though he was repeating what was being fed to him. And there were not so many arrrghs and errrs as usual. Tten there was that odd ‘I’m concentrating hard’ look. So, so obvious that he was being fed his lines.

    Too scared to do a live interview, carefully orchestrated questions read by Ms Sales in a way that reminded me of a ten year old reading aloud in class, rehearsed answers fed into Abbott’s ear to be sure he got them right. A very poor and unconvincing performance that told us absolutely nothing we haven’t already heard 500 times.

    I’d really like to know how long it took to get it recorded. I’m thinking a couple of hours. Plus more to airbrush it for broadcast.

  15. Actually, I may have to get hold of a transcript of that interview. I’m thinking of putting together a compilation of what he’s actually offering, based on what he has actually said. I suspect it’s nothing. Tonight it seems he’s now taken his PPL off the table.

  16. I just wrote her an email and said wtte a complete wast of time the interview told us nothing, about someone who want to be pm

    and that it sounded more ,like a chat with a friend,

    and wtte, a person who wants to be pm,,,, having a pre recorded interview.

    I ask her why we should bother watching her programme as we learnt nothing about what he intends to do to the country

  17. why not email her, she needs to know that we the tax payer are not happy

    she is there to find out what this man is going to do to our country
    and she cannot even do that,
    we rely on people like her to find out for us.,

    they work for us the people
    Kerry Obrien should be bought back no holes bared

  18. Close up of Me and the Dogs on the beach…

    I had to put Old Bob back on the lead because, when I let him off it, he ran straight into the waves and started swimming to New Zealand.

    By the time I got the older grandson to get his jeans off and go and fetch him, Bob was at the first line of breakers.

    This happened four times until said grandson went on strike.

    “Back on the lead, Bob.”

    He finally got the message and ran and skipped like a pup for the rest of the walk… restrained, of course.

    Costa, on the other hand made friends everywhere he went, including one female dog – a 45 kilo cross between a Volkswagen and a pig-dog – who, on the three occasions we crossed her path, sat down, fluttered her eyelashes and wagged her tail, before rolling over for him.

    I guess she likes small men.

  19. The PM is absoluetly heroic in comparison to this gutless wonder. I hope the party really starts pushing this angle.

    Gutlessness is not something Australians take kindly to. It goes against the oz mythology (however true or not).

    Everything Abbott does is gutless, and this should be pointed out at every opportunity by the party, with concrete examples. If the meme could be solidified in the public’s mind it might have the same deleterious effect as the “lacks ticker” meme had on Beazley.

    He’s not the type who would react well to this accusation either.

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