Mistakes, they happen.


My heart goes out to the staff and editors of The New York Times today.

It seems kinda weird that I would feel sorry for the most read newspaper in America. After all, I don’t want to work there and they have more resources than EVERY paper I’ve worked at. EVER.

But they messed up. I’m mean they really, really, messed up.

In the Public Editor’s column today, they outlined how errors in Walter Cronkite’s obit happened. Errors. As in seven. In a retrospective article on his life. Seven.

And it wasn’t just the writer. It was the entire set up.

Having made mistakes myself as a reporter, I know that this sucks. You feel awful. And the next thing you write, you’ll be gun shy. You double and triple check facts that you once knew cold. and you doubt yourself and your abilities. It’s really the worse position to be in as a journalist and as a writer.

But what I never understood is why the sole fault always laid at the reporter’s feet. That never seemed fair to me. Thankfully, in the Public Editor’s column, he details the process beautifully and points the finger at everyone.

Looking back at it all — a critic making mistakes in haste, editors failing to
vet her work enough, a story sitting for weeks without attention and then being
rushed through — one sees how small missteps lead to big trouble, leaving
readers to wonder what they can trust.

And he’s right. Small things plus deadlines pressures ( in this case for other stories) lead to this embarrassing event.

But I’m going to go higher up in the food chain. Corporate. Lay offs. Smaller staff doing more things.

Readers expect a lot from their newspapers. They expect perfection in every issue. The truth is, that not feasible. As an industry we need to accept that. We are not machines. We work like them but we’re human. We make mistakes even when we’re looking to fix them. We have tons on our plate and WE WILL MAKE MISTAKES.

Even though our mistakes last forever, we can’t, as an industry, promise we won’t make them. We can promise to be careful not to make them.

So that’s why my heart goes out to the NY Times. A paper with the most resources and the biggest reputation messed up. They made mistakes. Heads will probably roll. But the thing that lead to the mistake will not get fixed. I’ve been around long enough to know that as a fact.

So do me a favor today. Hug a journalist. Say thank you. And let them know, it’s okay to make mistakes. Just not too many of them please.

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