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In a mistake-filled funk

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by strugglingwriter, Nov 22, 2007.

  1. strugglingwriter

    strugglingwriter New Member

    Too many people know my normal screen name, so I'm going with a different one for this post. I'm really hoping for some good advice, and I figured this was the best place for me to get it.

    I've run into a problem lately. I keep making errors. They're pretty minor (writing a team won 6 state titles during a particular decade instead of 7; writing in a gamer that a player was the running back instead of the fullback, etc.), but it seems like I can't write a story lately without having one of them. I always feel like I check the story pretty well while I'm writing it, but I'm obviously not doing everything I could.

    Individually, the mistakes aren't a huge deal, but I know they cut to the credibility of me and my paper. Not only do they add up to something bigger, but I'm afraid that one of these mistakes will eventually be a big one if I don't get a handle on it soon. For the record, I have been writing for newspapers for 10 years and am currently on staff at a semi-major metro.

    I don't think it's a matter of being overworked. We all work a lot. I'm not a one-man shop or anything. I just don't know what the problem is, exactly. I'm curious if any of you have ever encountered this problem or known someone who has, and what you or your colleague did to get out of it. My editor isn't even aware of all the errors because, frankly, it has become embarrassing to tell him about yet another minor mistake. He's definitely aware that it has been an issue lately, though, and I think he's just trying to let me "play through it," so to speak.

    Any advice? What do you do to fact-check your stories? How do you make certain you're confident that there are no errors in your copy? How big a problem can this become?

    Any help you can offer would be appreciated. I'm having a hard time figuring out what to do at this point.
  2. Chi City 81

    Chi City 81 Guest

    What are your deskers doing to help you?
  3. Mystery_Meat

    Mystery_Meat Guest

    I've had similar experiences, and it's usually one or two mistakes that get into your craw subconcsiously and trigger a slump. You start doubting yourself a little bit, and then next thing you know you've made another mistake, and then another, and then it's developed its own critical mass.

    Good news is if you're worth your salt, you'll probably break out of it on your own. A couple of days of not writing or a good, error-free story can shift momentum in a hurry. But don't overthink it, or you'll psych yourself out.
  4. pallister

    pallister Guest

    They're busy posting on SportsJournalists.com.
  5. strugglingwriter

    strugglingwriter New Member

    We've had a recent shift on the desk where the deskers are having a lot thrown on their plate and are putting less emphasis on fact-checking with more emphasis on grammar/AP style errors. Thus, most fact-checking responsibility has been laid on the writer's shoulders.
  6. Chi City 81

    Chi City 81 Guest

  7. wickedwritah

    wickedwritah Guest

    Maybe it's different at major metros, but I thought that's always the way it's been done. Occasionally, if I'm unsure of something, I'll let the desk know in a note atop my story, but for the most part I try to make their job as simple and easy as possible.

    I've been in your same boat, struggling. I know you say you aren't overworked, but are you burned out? You may need a week's vacation right about now, or at least two or three good days away from the shop -- if possible.

    As MM said, if you're anything approaching decent, you'll snap out of it. Kind of like being in the zone.
  8. GBNF

    GBNF Active Member

    Holy crap, I feel like I posted this myself.
    I've been going through this for about a month, and I've never, ever, ever had this problem before. IT really came out of nowhere. I feel like a shooter in a bad slump. Nothing I can do can stop it, either. I'm hoping a little break from writing will do the trick, though.

    Don't worry brother, we've all been there. Keep doing your best, and it will eventually work.

    Good luck, and please keep us updated.
  9. strugglingwriter

    strugglingwriter New Member

    I think the best I'm gonna get is the rest of the night away from the shop. Football tomorrow night. Football Saturday. Football Sunday. Back to the start of the week Monday. I honestly don't feel like I'm burned out, but I can't rule that out completely.

    God, I hope I snap out of it. I feel like I need to change something I'm doing. I have a really difficult time editing and fact-checking my own stories, so I'm wondering if I need to put extra diligence into checking everything on the front end.
  10. strugglingwriter

    strugglingwriter New Member

    Thanks for that, GBNF. It honestly does feel good to know someone else is experiencing the same thing, though I don't wish it upon anyone. It's really hard to talk about with your co-workers, so it's easy to feel like you're the only one.

    Best of luck to you as well, my friend.
  11. I've gone through this, but I think our situations are different. I'm a one-man shop, and I have a tendency to write stories with holes, assuming I'll come back and correct them. Most of the time I do, but every now and then I don't. The result is a major hole in a major story. For me, it's an issue of time. I wish I could call it "laziness" but it's more complicated than that. I have so much on my plate that I honestly forget to come back and address the "XXX" or "???" I leave in a story. I know it hurts my credibility, but I don't know how to fix it. If I had more time I could revisit a story, but that's not always an option. In fact, it's frequently not an option. Any thoughts on copy editing your own stories?
  12. TheMethod

    TheMethod Member

    I've definitely had this problem. In fact, earlier this fall, I had the feeling for about two weeks that no matter what I did, I was going to end up screwing up somewhere and that there was nothing I could do to stop it. One of the unusual things in this business is that every story is different, so every story presents new things you can mess up. Most jobs aren't like that on a day-to-day basis. You're not constantly presented with new ways to fail.

    I can trace most of my mistakes to a few key elements though.
    1) Relying on things I know, instead of looking them up. Sometimes, I don't know what I think I know.
    2) Writing quickly -- sometimes I do it because I'm on deadline. Sometimes I do it because deadlines have conditioned me to work that way.
    3) Not proofreading my own stuff.

    Also, my SE has repeatedly told me, "assume you're going to get no help from the desk, because, truly, you probably aren't going to get any help from the desk."
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