Sean Keeble, The Australians chief sub-editor believes they are the gatekeepers of the newspaper - the last line of defence to ensure everything looks good and is easy to read. A newspaper has been very thoroughly read before it is published.
Each story is checked up to four times for errors. Before there are any words on the page a layout sub draws up the page in its most basic form. They do this by taking a blank page template and deciding where each story is going to sit on the page, the size of the headline and how long it will be. They need to work around advertisements which have already been allocated to spaces on the page. They draw up the page with boxes for ads, stories and photographs.
A copy sub works on each individual story to make it fit within the page layout. After a reporter has proof-read her own story, she files it to the sub-editors. A copy sub reads it, checks the facts as well as spelling and grammar and then, if required, shortens it so that it will fit into its designated box on the page. A sub has usually been an experienced reporter and knows which information in the story is the least important and can be deleted if it is too long. They check that everything makes sense and there is nothing in the story that will cause legal problems.
Once they are sure everything is completed, they send their story to a check sub. The check sub does exactly that - they double check that everything has been done properly by the copy sub. A copy of the page is printed out (called a "proof") and each sub reads through a page proof for a page they have not yet worked on. Once all the page proofs have been read and everything is "check-subbed", the newspaper is sent to press.
A sub-editor also writes a headline. A headline should reflect the mood of the story - a light-hearted story might need a funny headline, a more serious story normally needs to be more direct.