I have a blog post on the Guardian’s Mind Your Language blog today. Much excitement.
March 14, 2011
September 16, 2010
The Daily Mail’s caption was positively elegant in comparison. And I don’t say that very often.
Meanwhile, Trenchard has emailed the following:
Did you read this from today’s grauniad?
‘The Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs has been hit with a sexual discrimination lawsuit from three former female employees who claim the firm has a testosterone-driven culture of press-up contests on the trading floor, male-dominated golf outings and scantily clad escorts at an office Christmas party.
‘Orlich claims she was excluded from golf outings, and recounts displays of “masculinity” including a push-up contest on the trading floor. And she asserts that a 2007 Christmas party for a sales team featured female escorts “wearing short black skirts, strapless tops and Santa hats”.’
Former female employees? Are they now men?
I don’t know about you, but push-up contest made me think wonderbra rather than masculinity … And ‘Santa hats’ … er, are these often associated with sexiness?
Blimey. Former females in push-up bras and Santa hats. Someone woke up in an interesting mood.
June 7, 2010
Well it was my third shift at the Guardian yesterday, and I continue in fine form. The main excitement on this occasion was caused by a small button called “send to walls” - or, rather, by me pressing it. Thank God it didn’t work.
I only subbed one web story yesterday, which is here. And I think it’s fair to say I made a right meal of it! Not the copy, which I am assured was fine. Not even the web only/print only bit. It was the photo that tripped me up on this occasion.
Now when you add a picture to a web story, you are given the option to crop it. You do so, and afterwards you are given the option to upload it. There may be a way of uploading it without doing the crops first, but if there is, I don’t know it.
Things were a little hazy in my memory, it having been a couple of weeks since I was shown how to do the web part of it, and my notes weren’t making a lot of sense to me. But the bit that really confused me was that I had chosen a photo that I didn’t think needed cropping. So I stuck it on the form, filled in the caption and the alternative text, did the credits… and… I figured that was ready to go.
So there I am, with my completed web form and my completed story, and I have three options at the bottom. One is “add crops”, but I’ve misguidedly decided I don’t need to do this. One is “edit”. One is “send to walls”. Well this seems the only logical option for sending the picture to the web story (no? it has the word “send” in it at least!) so I choose that one. I’m rewarded with an error message saying there are rights restrictions on the picture.
So to the art desk I go, and from there am sent to the web art desk upstairs where I explain somewhat ineptly what the problem is (or in fact what the problem isn’t). We look at the details on the pic, ascertain that there’s nothing wrong there.
“I just don’t understand what you’re clicking that would bring up that error message,” says the man.
“It’s when I click ‘send to walls’,” I say. “It just won’t let me go further than that.”
“‘Send to walls’?” He looks at me as if I have just pulled out a gun. “But that means send to the walls. Of the building. You can’t do that. You shouldn’t have the option to do that.”
Ah. Those gigantic screens on the outside of the building.
There follows a patient and detailed explanation of what I should have done, of which I understand about word in every three and try to convey the impression that it is more like two words in every three. Sixty percent of my brain is busy begging the ground – or at least the third floor – to swallow me, you see. As I make my retreat, I get the distinct impression he is phoning the local straitjacket provider.
I’ve never had much room in my heart for error messages, but today, just this once, I am sending them all a little hug.
June 2, 2010
May 24, 2010
I did my second shift at the Guardian yesterday, which was much more of an in-at-the-deep-end experience than my first one. No-one had been warned of my newbie-most-clueless status this time, which was good in a way because it meant I had to ask people for help and couldn’t just sit there being a ball of shyness.
On my first shift, I only subbed stories for print – it was decided that I should be spared the subbing-for-web experience. However, as it’s one of the things I’m most eager to learn, this time I asked straight away if someone could show me the ropes. A very patient man called Neil volunteered and showed me exactly what I had to do (and he did it well – I took notes and was able to do it all on my own later that day).
The Guardian subs, so far as I can tell, get stories ready for the web and the paper more or less simultaneously. The stories appear on the content management system marked “web then print”, “print then web”, “web only” or “print only”. But whereas (I think) at other publications the copy is split into two directions and two documents, here it remains as one.
Getting the document ready for the web isn’t actually hard (not armed with my notes, anyway) – in fact, it makes a nice change, as you get to source the picture and crop it to fit, which is kinda cool. The tagging isn’t as hard as I’d imagined it would be, either. However, the difficult part (and presumably the reason I was protected from it on my first shift) is the actual copy.
Did you ever make paper dolls as a child? You had to make sure you cut out the bit you didn’t want to see – rather than the bit you did? Well this is a bit like making two inverse paper dolls at the same time. You have, basically, two stories in one document and you are armed with a web-only shortcut and a print-only shortcut. You need to make the print story fit, but the cuts that you do in order to achieve that don’t need to be removed from the web version. And the web version is going up today, so all of the dates happening on the day of writing need to read “today”, whereas the print version is coming out tomorrow, so the day of writing needs to be referred to as “yesterday”.
It’s really hard. You’re making three lots of cuts (notes mode too, for things that shouldn’t appear in either story) at the same time, and trying to envisage how it would look in each format. I got a bit carried away, to be honest – I had no idea to what extent these tools should be used. One of the revise subs came and said to me afterwards that I should only really web-only whole paragraphs or sentences because otherwise it’s too difficult to check. I’m not surprised – the galley view looked crazy after I’d been at it! So although I was disappointed to have done it wrong, I’m also relieved that it’s not supposed to be done to that level of intricacy. I also got mixed up with the byline – I should have made it print-only, as the web has a separate field for the byline. Instead, I made it web-only, which would have meant there were two bylines online and none at all in the paper. D’oh.
Eagerly I went to look up my first ever Guardian web story this morning – and to my horror, it’s not quite right. I’ve owned up, so perhaps it will be corrected soon, but see it here for yourselves. I seem to have got confused at the end of the first par, and where I wanted to put “Afghanistan” in notes mode and replace it with “there”, instead I’ve put it in web-only, so both appear. It also looks as though I’ve used the wrong dashes throughout – evidently the shortcut I use at The Grocer doesn’t do the same thing at the Guardian.
I guess it’s a good lesson in humility – and I shouldn’t expect to get it right first time. But I do wish I had…
Anyway. Today is the first day of my substitute weekend, so time to stop tutting at myself and get out in the sun!
May 17, 2010
Hello, hello, hello, it’s me, Cathy! Regular readers (all seven) may have noticed that I have been somewhat quiet on the rantings front of late. This is because… [drum roll...] I’ve been off catching a job or two.
I’m delighted to say that I will be leaving The Grocer for Which? magazine four weeks from now, hurrah! Of course I’ll miss the Crawley – or, more specifically, Broadfield – ambience, but I guess I’ll get used to all those shops, cafés, bars, bright lights and so on in the end. Much sadness to be leaving Kitty and the Bamfordettes though. (Also known as The Grocer’s subs desk.)
And as if that wasn’t enough, I’ve also been signed up for three trial shifts at the Sunday Times (thanks Kit), starting this weekend, plus two more shifts at the Guardian… erm… also starting this weekend. Well, we all know that days off are for sissies. (Yikes. Luckily I have managed to engineer a week off between finishing at The Grocer and starting at Which?.)
Bizarrely, the blog played a part in all three of these opportunities. I never foresaw that when I set it up one quiet day last autumn – I just wanted to share word nerd things (today’s favourite is a hyphen crime: “The ad stars a weedy, wannabe-rock star singing into his hairdryer.”
Anyway, yes, I’m on the move. Now… how long is it going to take until I don’t wince every time I put that question mark on the end of my new employer’s title? Hmm…
Ps. This does, of course, mean The Grocer is looking for a new sub-editor to replace me. If you want details, give me a shout and I’ll spill the beans (and other clichés).
April 26, 2010
It was my first shift at the Guardian yesterday. Hmm… should I say ‘first’? Perhaps that’s a little presumptuous, as I don’t yet know if I am to be asked back. I worked at the Guardian yesterday, having never worked there before.
So… what was it like? Well, sparkly, for one thing. A beautiful wavy building, furnished inside like a super-fancy Ikea but without the cushion-fondlers and the screaming kids. Huge flatscreens on all the computers, high ceilings, glass walls, two cafeterias (two!). Very different from the cosy dishevelment of The Times, where papers pile high on desks and there are nooks and crannies everywhere. I had a chuckle when I heard the staff complaining about the quality of the cafeteria food on Sundays – best they never pay a visit to Grocer Towers in rural Crawley, where you pin your hopes on the sandwich lady and pray you don’t get a phone call just as she rolls through with her trolley.
The organisation of the copy flow is amazing. There is a content management system called Octopus that (from what I could work out) everyone uses at the same time – reporters, section editors, subs and revise subs. It prevents those InCopy glitches where two people accidentally check in to a story at the same time and wipe out each other’s work (yes, I know that officially can’t happen, but it does, repeatedly). You see something become available, you take it. When you’re finished with it, you check it back in, but to the revise subs’ folder. The quality of the copy is extremely good, which makes it pleasant to sub but harder to cut. There are no paper proofs and no red pen – not that I saw, anyway.
The downside? Well, I felt like a very small fish in a gigantic pond, which was uncomfortable but to be expected, naturally. And it was very quiet. I am used to working while Kit and Vince weigh up the latest Doctor Who before going their separate ways to respectively practise Arabic and chew on Transformers, the art desk have deep discussions about football and breasts and someone at the other end of the room howls in rage over a misspelling. There were no arguments about whose tea round it was – in fact, there was no tea round at all.
I’m not sure how well I did. The sub charged with my care did give me the thumbs up at the end of the shift, but I wish I’d asked him whether I had been fast enough – I suspect I was slow, as I was being so paranoid about getting everything right. And did I get it right? That’s another thing I should have asked. I bought the paper today and I think only a couple of my headlines had been rewritten, plus one introduction where some words I had cut had been reinstated. Overall, I’m hopeful that I did pretty well.
Fingers crossed for an invitation back.