"Subs is cunts", a former deputy editor of the Observer used to remind me when we worked together on another newspaper. Giles Coren of the Times certainly agrees.
Here he is complaining in an email to subs about the removal of the word "a" from a restaurant review. It's an entertaining mail, clearly deeply felt, if a bit luvvie-ish ("It strips me of all confidence in writing for the magazine" etc).
Though he comes across as a bit of a prick in the mail, Coren is in the right. As he explains, the sub's alteration damaged his final par and ruined a gag. And there was no need for the change other than that the sub thought he knew better than the writer.
What subs are needed for is production and layout - getting the copy on the page and making it look nice - valuable and important work. But provided you've got writers who can write and desk editors who can edit, you don't need sub-editors to rewrite it all. And if your writers can't write, get rid of them and employ ones who can.
UPDATE Coren, or a fair facsimile, now features on Twitter. Meanwhile, just for fun or whatever, I typed "subeditors cunts" into Google ad it seems that Coren and my ex-Observer colleague are not alone in their views. Here's a computer journalist called RAM Raider on the subject and here's a lively discussion about it all. And, look, here's Giles again, in 2002.