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Falsely accused of blowing deadline

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by copperpot, Apr 17, 2008.

  1. copperpot

    copperpot Well-Known Member

    This is a new one for me, and I'm not sure how to handle it. Guy called me last Thursday and said he needed two stories turned around "in a about a week." I told him I thought I could do that and accepted the job.

    Because he didn't specify the deadline, I wrote to him each day between then and now updating him on my progress and when I'd be done. On Tuesday, I wrote, "All of my reporting is done for the first story, so I will plan to have the story and picture to you by tomorrow, late afternoon, if that's OK.

    I have one good source for the other story so far and am planning to make the additional calls today and tomorrow. I'm thinking of Thursday at the latest for that one."

    He writes back, and I quote, "Sounds great!"

    So yesterday I send the first story and let him know I'll tackle the rest of the second one today. He writes back at about 10 p.m. that he needs the second one ASAP because it needs to go to print by noon today. I tell him that's a problem, as I have a 10 a.m. doctor's appt. with blood work. So he writes back:

    When I gave you the assignment, it was with the understanding that the deadline was Wednesday. I obviously can't hold the publication until you get me the story, and it's an important part of the piece. And it's really impossible for me to get someone else to make calls at such short notice.

    Unfortunately, I couldn't access my work e-mail at home, so I didn't have the proof in front of me that he said Thursday was "great." Now I've checked my e-mails and see that he in fact did.

    Here's the thing. The ship has sailed; I had to cobble together the story from the one solid interview I did and three press releases. So arguing about the deadline issue isn't going to resolve anything.

    But, I am hopping mad. I took pains to keep him updated and to make sure my schedule was OK, and I really, really resent being told I missed the deadline.

    So, what to do? I'm thinking of just forwarding the note where he said Thursday was "great" and saying, "I'm sure you can appreciate my confusion over your saying the deadline was Wednesday given this exchange."

    I don't care about burning bridges. If I never write for this guy again, I think that's probably a good thing. Not to say I want to be a jerk and a half in my reply, but I certainly don't want to say nothing just because I'm afraid he might not hire me again.

    Thanks a lot for the feedback.
  2. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Three things you need to make sure both sides are in agreement on: the pay, the length and the deadline.

    In the future, to cover your ass, don't accept "in about a week." You need to say -- I have till xxxx to turn this in when you agree to the job. Then if it's going to go past that, you need to make clear that you know you said Friday, but is it possible to turn it in Monday.

    I am sure the guy probably only half-read your email and was responding to something other than the deadline.

    Or he's a complete doofus.
  3. OTD

    OTD Active Member

    I would do something like you said: forward the note back, with a polite note that you're sorry about the mixup, but you hope he understands based on your previous note. Be polite.

    Unless you don't care about getting any more jobs from him. In that case, go upper deck him.
  4. sportschick

    sportschick Active Member

    A Comet bomb is in order here, although what OTD suggested is probably the best move.
  5. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    Deadlines have to be clear and agreed to by both parties.

    Sounds like you went ahead with the assignment without the deadline being clearly established.

    Lesson learned.
  6. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    I'd agree with 'polite' as in being professional...but I would not say I was sorry for anything. I would send the emails back to him, saying, 'I'm not sure where we miscommunicated, I took my direction from these emails. If I misunderstood your message, please let me know.'
  7. copperpot

    copperpot Well-Known Member

    Yeah, you can be sure this is a mistake I won't make again.
  8. OTD

    OTD Active Member

    The reason I suggested the apology is that this guy (the editor, not copperpot) seems like an asshole. It doesn't cost copperpot anything to say (or type) it and it might even make the editor feel bad about his snotty note. So if copperpot wants more work from this guy, it couldn't hurt.

    I should've made it clear that I don't think copperpot was wrong. Just because you type "I'm sorry" doesn't mean you have to mean it.
  9. Dan Hickling

    Dan Hickling Member

    Rightly or wrongly, it's your reputation that has taken a hit, and you never know when something like that can come back to bite you...you may not have any intention of writing for him, but no doubt, he has influence somewhere with somebody that could (even if it's a 10 percent chance) help or hinder you....everyone of us bears the spark burns of crossed wires, but it's how you handle that (again, even if you're not at fault) that will help establish you as a professional...don't grovel, but do take the highest road....
  10. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    Guy seems like a douchenozzle to me, copperpot. Just chalk it up as a bad experience and move on.
  11. copperpot

    copperpot Well-Known Member

    Thanks again to those of you who weighed in. I went with short and sweet, attaching the e-mails where I said I'd have the story on Thursday and he said that was "great."

    I'm back in the office and catching up on e-mail. I think that if you reread the exchange below, you'll see why I wasn't under the impression the deadline for the second story was Wednesday. Sorry again for the confusion. Hope everything worked out OK. Have a nice weekend.
  12. TwoGloves

    TwoGloves Well-Known Member

    I was thinking maybe this thread had something to with a person who used Deadline as a screen name.
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