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What to do when your editor really screws up

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by kingcreole, Apr 4, 2010.

  1. kingcreole

    kingcreole Active Member

    I can't go into too much detail for fear of outing.

    Basically, our SE, who is an experienced fella and a good dude to be around, screwed up something awful last week.

    It's been eating at me for a few days. I had a day off and he covered an event on my beat. He missed what could potentially be our sports story of the year. He never mentioned it in the stories he wrote. Our photog said the SE was not there when this story.

    Again, I wish I could go into details, but trust me - he missed one of those rare stories we all would love to have a chance to write about.

    Don't think any of the higher ups know what he missed, at least not yet. What do I do? How do I handle this? What do I do when my editor screws up and misses a story like this? If I was in charge and my reporter did the same thing, I would seriously consider firing him/her. It was that bad.
  2. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    Talk to him - I would hope you have that kind of relationship. If he's truly experienced and he's a good dude to be around, he'll appreciate it.

    "Yo, uh, this is a tough one but we need to talk. I appreciate you covering whatever for me but I think we missed a big 'un. Let's figure out how to make up for it."
  3. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    Do a second-day/followup story and catch up to it as best you can.

    If you're thinking of narcing him out, directly or indirectly, to the grand poobahs, before you do, you better make damn sure:

    1) The story was not something that needed background digging or deep contacts to get. That's the job of the regular beat writer (you). The SE was stepping in for one day to hold the fort while you had your day off. All he could realistically be expected to do was a straightforward event story.

    2) you're willing and able to deal with the fallout if they drop the bomb on him.

    3) you're willing and able to deal with a reputation on the staff as a backstabber, if the SE actually is considered "a good dude to be around" by the rest of the staff. You can bet, if you narc him out, that nobody will ever lift a finger to cover for you on a beat, unless point-blank ordered to.

    Unless the screwup was really the result of actual bad conduct on his part, I'd let it drop. Mention it to him in a conference room as Moddy suggests, "how do we play catchup on this?"

    If it was the result of the fact he was dropped cold into your beat and just missed something, that's why you're the regular beat guy and he isn't.

    Plus, if you make too much of a big stink about stories getting missed on your days off, the logical next step for the grand poohbahs will be to decide you're getting too many days off.
  4. kingcreole

    kingcreole Active Member

    Yeah, I'll have to talk to him to wonder why this story wasn't covered. I will definitely do the follow up. No digging was necessary or anything like that. Everyone that could have been interviewed were all right there.

    I guess I just don't understand how something like this could be ignored.
  5. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    Does the SE know that he missed the story? Is he even aware of it?

    If not, maybe you can/should just treat it like a story you found out about from the get-go, and go from there, just as you normally would do.

    Or, was your paper completely beaten on the story, and that's how anyone else found out about it? Because, the fact is, this is not the same as if a reporter misses a story and his editor calls him on it.

    As the reporter, you don't have supervisory or firing power over him. That's the difference, and it's a big one. You may need to treat this with kid gloves. That's just the reality. Don't forget it.
  6. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    I don't like these posts because they are too ambiguous.

    From your post: "Our photog said the SE was not there when this story."

    You left something out. We can't fairly judge if it's a screwup unless you give us the goods.
  7. flexmaster33

    flexmaster33 Active Member

    talk to him about it, but do it with respect. Best not to go into it all pissed off, it won't end well. I agree with the sentiments of catching up to it as best you can, and who knows, maybe this is a big story in your mind and not such a big deal from another's perspective...I've seen that scenario play out quite a bit.
  8. kingcreole

    kingcreole Active Member

    Meh ... my bad. Photog said SE was not there when the story happened, but I don't know if that's true.

    I do intend to talk with him when we're both in later this week. Just how the schedule worked out, which is probably good.

    Sorry for the vagueness folks. But trust me when I say it was a big story.
  9. tapintoamerica

    tapintoamerica Well-Known Member

    Write the follow and forget about it. As long as his failure doesn't complicate your beat responsibilities in the future, let it go.
  10. podunk press

    podunk press Active Member

    Do what you can to write about whatever the issue/story is.

    Otherwise, move on.

    Bosses screw up on occasion. So do reporters. Stories get missed.

    Oh, well.

    I hate to be so blah about a mistake/oversight, but with so many tasks facing journalists today, we simply can't afford to dwell on the past.
  11. Hackwilson191

    Hackwilson191 Member

    Sorry King, If it is that big of a story and it had been "eating at you for days" then it is you and not he, who dropped the ball. If it's that big of a story you let him know what happened, ask him if he saw any of it, explained why it was big and had a follow for it the next day, not when you get in later this week. It should have already been done. Period.
  12. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Details are sketchy, obviously, and Moddy is right that you go in and say, "Hey, I think we need to follow up on this" without being accusatory.

    But in my experience when things seem black and white, they usually aren't. Could be a good, reason a bad reason a dumb photographer all mixed in to give you an impression that isn't quite true.
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