One of the things I’d like to do more in this space is give readers some behind-the-scenes takes about what happens at the Local. In talking to people, I regularly come to understand that the …
One of the things I’d like to do more in this space is give readers some behind-the-scenes takes about what happens at the Local. In talking to people, I regularly come to understand that the American newspaper, which has been around since long before nation’s founding in 1776, is generally a great mystery to most people.
People often like to talk about “the media” as though they understand the biases and decision-making process of journalists, but that talk often reveals that most people know nothing about the conventions of reporting, editing and the many decisions that constitute the practice of journalism. One of the things I’m convinced of is that we could use more popular TV shows about reporters. We certainly get enough on the practices of doctors, lawyers and cops. Thanks to the “Sopranos” must of us have a more accurate sense of the average life of a mafioso than we do about journalists.
But I digress.
Not unlike any of those professions about which there has been so much television fodder, not all journalists are the same. Larger media companies like the New York Times or CNN have people who are specialists. Reporters have beats and editors only edit. There are teams of people who check accuracy. At the Local, like other small media outfits, everyone is a multi-tasker. You can’t get away with a single responsibility. As an editor, I still write, take photos, design pages, etc. And I’m no different than community journalists all over the country who do the same. And many who probably do more.
Most of the time, this sort of diversity of experience keeps things interesting. But there are other times when you really wish you had that team to give you a hand.
Such was the case last week when I made a really silly error on April Lisante’s piece about hamantaschen. I had read something earlier about hamantaschen suitable for Passover, and wrote the headline with that in mind, not thinking again to catch the mistake. Hamentaschen are for Purim, a holiday during which the eating of dough is permitted.
To refer back to my original point about transparency in journalism practice, headlines are written by editors. Writers might suggest them, but editors are ultimately responsible. The Passover gaffe was not April’s mistake. It was mine – an embarrassing brain fart out in public.
Of course no mistake goes unrewarded, and I heard from numerous readers about it. But I have to say, we have great readers. Everyone I traded emails with was gracious about my blunder. This, I suppose, is another benefit of being a community newspaper person. While not everyone knows exactly how the local newspaper works, they understand that we have more in common with the mom-and-pop shops on the Avenue than the New York Times. At least at the Local, if you ask the editor why he got something wrong, he’ll write you back.
Thanks to all for understanding, and I’ll try to make sure we do better going forward. And if you see a mistake we’ve made, feel free to let us know.