Last week at my internship, I was put in a tough spot. On Thursday, I received a scathing phone call from a representative of an organization I had written a piece on. According to her, I had not only misspelled her name, but also listed a number of factual errors relating to the organization’s services within the community. I quickly checked the online version of the article and, sure enough, she was right.
Misspelling the names of people or organizations is a serious deal in journalism — freelancers usually don’t get hired again if their article contains any sort of factual error. At a publication I worked at last year, the copy editors kept a list of how many errors, or “CQs,” writers made. If they went over a certain number each quarter, they were penalized. So, naturally I was a little distraught after the phone call.
This is where the situation turned from bad to tough, though. I checked my draft of the piece, which was the version before the editors corrected it, and I found out that all my facts were correct. I had not misspelled any names or gotten any figures wrong. Whoever had corrected my piece had inserted the errors.
Now, as corny as it sounds, everyone makes mistakes, especially in the fast-paced world of journalism. I was a copy editor for a year, and I definitely missed some mistakes as well as inserted a few here and there accidentally. But, it was still frustrating to see so many errors — close to three — in a piece of work with my name on it.
To make things worse, I had published an online piece a week earlier with a misspelling in it (like I said, I’ve definitely made some errors, too), so I began to worry that my editor would begin to think I was some sort of factual-error-making machine.
As these thoughts ran through my mind, I opened my computer and began to write an email to my editor about the situation. It was then that I came to my dilemma: Is it my place, as an intern, to complain about an issue like this? Would it do any good to bring it up now after the piece has already been published? The copy editors are so understaffed and overworked; how will they react if I bring it up to them? Mistakes happen all the time in newspapers; does this one merit attention?
After much thought, I decided to send the email explaining the errors, what needs to be fixed and the frustration I had. I was worried that I would lose respect if I did not do so.
To this moment, I still do not know if my decision to bring up the issue was the right one. My editor never responded. The next day, no one — not even the copy editors — brought it up. I felt foolish and still do a little. Perhaps, as someone new to the industry, I still do not realize the human aspect of it all — how with so much different content circulating through each day, mistakes are inevitable.
What do you guys think? Did I make a big deal out of nothing? Am I STILL making a big deal out of nothing? After all, like I said, no one has really brought it up.