Because of the weird way in which my local paper works (it’s a tiny paper), content I write often appears online before it appears in the printed edition. This can be both. It is good when I am eager to see what the editor has done with my work—usually he changes very little, of which I am proud. It is bad, however, when I have made a mistake and someone catches it, but, alas, it is too late to make changes before the article goes to print.
That is what happened this weekend.
I wrote twelve articles. With each article, I looked for a way to draw readers in, to make the article interesting, to make people want to keep reading. Most of the articles were straight-forward. A few, however, were complicated. In an article about the county’s “fire safe council,” I confused one of the council’s programs with another group’s and used the word “wilderness” instead of “wildland.” In another, I began with an interesting story behind a local painter, but, in my rush to meet my deadline, said “power” instead of “pressure washing” and spelled “Pittsburgh” without the “h.” The painter was furious on all accounts (apparently he didn’t like that I’d included the background info) and sent me a text-message to let me know how disappointed, nay, disgusted he was with what I’d written.
I wanted to die.
I went for a bike ride to try to shake it off. I knew that there was nothing I could do. The article would go to print, and the world would keep on turning. But at that moment I felt at the bottom of a deep, dark abyss, as though the weight of the world were on my shoulders: I’d tried my best, and my best wasn’t good enough.
. . .
It was good, though, in a way. It’s a lesson I’ll not soon forget. In journalism accuracy is of the utmost importance. Looming deadlines can’t mean sacrificed precision. I’ll never be able to please everyone all of the time (there’s a reason they say writers must develop thick skin), but I can at least make damn sure I spelled “Pittsburgh” right.
- good writing takes time (jesscy.com)
- hurried (jesscy.com)
- little birdie (jesscy.com)
- freelance fun (jesscy.com)