The Dreaded Correction

I’ve had one correction that has stuck with me since I started in journalism.

In the summer of 2009, I was an intern at the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, CT. If I remember correctly it was my second week. My editor at the time, Nancy Thompson, was going to take a long weekend and gave me a couple of stories to write so that she made sure that I had something to do.

One of those stories was about a family owned camera shop on Main Street in Manchester. The family was closing down the store after over 50 years in the business. Bigger companies had forced them out doing what they loved. It was a tough story to write. The daughter that I spoke with was so grateful for me wanting to talk to her and I was just glad that I could bring attention to a family that had worked so hard for so long.

I don’t remember how long it took me to write the story, but it came out great. It was over 18 inches and I was really proud of what I had written. I finished it on Friday and I think it ran either over the weekend or that Monday. What I do remember is coming in the day after it ran and seeing a note on my desk that read, “You got the name wrong,” with the correction that they were going to print.

At first, I didn’t believe it. There was no way I could have made that mistake. No way. Panic.

Before she left, Nancy had given me the name of the shop and I had never double-checked it. I didn’t even think to. I know that I’m supposed to double and triple check everything, especially the vitals of the story, but that time I didn’t.

That was a bad day. I really didn’t know what to think or what to do. I felt terrible. The other reporters in the newsroom were really great about it. They tried to make me feel better and I appreciated that. Everyone makes mistakes, I guess. Yeah, that’s on my record now, but I felt terrible for the family. A correction isn’t going to make that situation any better. The worst part of it was that the daughter wanted copies of the story. So, I had to cut out my “wrong” story and mail it to her. I was beyond embarrassed. I felt like I let Nancy down and the whole paper.

When Nancy got back she already knew what happened. She apologized profusely for giving me the name wrong. I told her it wasn’t her fault and that I was solely to blame for it. I should have checked. That still bothers me today.

Since then, I’ve been diligent with making sure everything I say in my writing is accurate and true. I think I’ve done a good job of that. I can ask myself a million “What Ifs,” but that will get me nowhere.

I learned a lot from that summer, but that story is the one that really stuck out to me. When you are in school and you are learning about the profession, you get fed up with how much the professors are hounding you about the vitals of the story. It seems they say the same things over and over again. After awhile, you can take it for granted. In school, you don’t really know about the consequences. In school it’s real, but it isn’t.

Getting a lower grade because you spelled something wrong is much different than having 35,000 people see that you spelled the name wrong.

With my first week under my belt, I guess you could say that I am on high alert. I don’t like messing up and I never will. I don’t want to let my boss down or the paper. I know that people make mistakes, but, as I have found, in journalism, it’s never easy.

We have to constantly check and double check things. It’s just what we have to do. It takes a second to make a mistake, but it’ll stay with you.

So far, so good.

-Jon

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3 Responses to The Dreaded Correction

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