I won’t let every mistake be the end of my world.

Re-blogged from my advanced reporting class blog.

Last week, I had a correction on my story about The Reynolds Journalism Institute’s new endowment.

It wasn’t because I misspelled or a name or forgot to check a figure; it happened because I was tired, overly familiar with the copy and just plain seeing what I wanted to see. It was late, I worked all day, and I missed it. I take full responsibility for the error.

To elaborate a little, I misconstrued exactly how RJI’s usable funds would be culled from the entire investment it was endowed with, something that as an economics major, I do actually understand the mechanics of. But at that time in that place in that frame of mind, it just didn’t hit home.

And I do feel bad about it. I hate letting my editor down and causing confusion for my readers. I always read and re-read and re-read again, but clearly, that sentence just wasn’t going to catch my eye that night, even as I explained it just fine in words to a number of people and sources. (This is why it’s so important to have excellent copy editors and section editors like we do at the Missourian. They aren’t expendable. But that’s a rant for another day.)

How do I make sure this kind of mistake doesn’t happen again? Going forward, I’m going to take even more time slogging through explanations of an economic nature. I’m going to pay more attention to how I use language to portray math processes, and I’m going to be more clear about what I mean rather than rely on semi-jargon to get an idea across.

I’m never going to stop being diligent about my copy. But I’m also never going to stop being human. And humans make mistakes. Agonizing over the correction will not make me a better journalist. It will not help me do my job faster or more efficiently, and it won’t make me a better all-around reporter.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t learned from each correction I’ve gotten. I don’t speed through copy like I did as a new reporter, I always read over and over, and I read once a story is published, too. I double-check every proper noun and specific figure. I go back to check quotes against my notes and with my sources.

But at times, things slip through, despite even my best efforts. I don’t let that initial stomach-plummeting email or phone call ruin the zeal and enthusiasm I have for this job. If I did, it would paralyze me. It’s impossible to learn when you’re paralyzed by the fear of making a mistake.

If I let each mistake chip away at my confidence and love for reporting, I think I’d be less of a journalist and less of a person. With mistakes come learning, and with learning comes growth. Hopefully my experiences can be a lesson to those I work with, and we can all progress that much more.

If journalism was supposed to be perfect, it’d be practiced by robots. But it’s not. It takes a human touch and a human understanding to tell a story, explain a complex issue and write with literary grace. As much as we hate mistakes, many of them can be fixed. If we are transparent with our audience about our correction process and why a mistake was made, and if we are diligent about having many eyes on every piece of copy, I don’t think we’ll be worse off in the long run.

***Note: In no way is this post supposed to encourage complacency about accuracy. Some errors can’t be brushed off or moved past so quickly, or even at all. My point was to craft a message to keep myself, and my peers, from freezing after small, easily-rectifiable mistakes. We’re still learning, and part of that is learning how to ensure we practice verification so errors eventually don’t happen.

Oh hey Nostalgia, nice of you to drop by.

So I made the mistake of going back and reading selective blog posts from the past three-odd years. Why a mistake? because now I can see, more than ever, how much my life has changed since I started this blog during my freshman year of college. And now, more than ever, I feel the imminent despair that one feels when one realizes one’s friends will soon be leaving a cozy college campus for lives in the “real world.”

Needless to say, I’m trying not to dwell on it.

But one post in particular caught my eye. It was from the second semester of my freshman year when I was enrolled in J2100 New Writing and just starting to dip my toes into the cold, rushing waters of reporting in Columbia (how’s that for a bad cliché?). I wrote about how odd it was to shift my news-consuming from a Chicago focus to a Columbia one, and how I felt so out of touch with the community.

Fast forward five semesters, and I can safely say that’s no longer an issue. Congratulations Columbia Missourian, you did your job! I am comfortable talking to strangers, interviewing just about anyone and turning a pile of notes ‘n quotes into a coherent story. I can editengage and report with (some) of the best of them. Mission accomplished.

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Farmers markets and market shares: business reporting and leisure in #CLE

Three weekends down in Cleveland, and last weekend definitely tops them all. Why, you ask? Well it’s due in large part to my first trip to West Side Market with my roommate Jessica and her boyfriend.

The iconic West Side Market clock tower. Also, Ohio weather is beautiful.

The market is one of the biggest and most beautiful farmers markets I have every been to, and I’ve lived in Missouri, land of really important legacy beef and farming products.

I wasn’t prepared to be able to do my grocery shopping their either. I figured, as with most markets I’ve encountered, that beyond a nice treat or some freshly baked bread, the majority of the items wouldn’t jive with my college intern salary. Boy was I wrong. Continue reading

Fun times in Cleveland, sans drifters and food prepared near the street

My first time in Ohio, and I’m gearing up for an eventful 10 weeks.

After slightly more than two weeks in Cleveland, I’m acclimating to the strange, curvy roads and unfamiliar grocery store chains. I’m less put off by the one-way streets, and I’ve finally memorized my new zip code (44115, if you were wondering).

I’m settling into my internship at the Plain Dealer, and I’ve got my workout-work-dinner-bed routine down pat for the weekdays.

Now, I’m looking for some weekend festivities. But as the title of this post alludes, it won’t be fun of the Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism video variety. (Which, if you haven’t seen, you need to watch. Now. Hat tip to Karen Miller for introducing me to those few minutes of absolute, tear-jerking hilarity).

Anyways. I’m used to research. A lot of what I do as a journalist involves searching, reading and finding out all kinds of information. From store closings to the minutiae of lawsuits, I’m getting pretty darn good at finding stuff out. But that hasn’t stopped me from feeling a little intimidated by a brand-new city (and state, for that matter).

So after perusing some helpful blogs about why I should love Cleveland, I’ve developed a short list of goals for the summer (beta version). Any and all suggestions are welcome!

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Talkin’ bout my generation

Me and my dear Twain friends at the J-School’s 2012 graduation this past May. Katie (the one in the robes) graduated a full year early and will be starting graduate school in the fall (Can you tell I’m proud of her?).

See the people in this picture? We’re part of what has been christened the “Millennial” generation. Or Generation Y. Or Generation Next. Or the Echo Boomers (Thanks to Wikipedia for that one). You get the idea.

I could rant about how misjudged my peers and I are, and I could list myriad examples of how my friends and I defy the oft-repeated entitled, lazy, dependent and spoiled stereotypes. But I won’t do that here. That is a post for a much worse mood. And also, if you are reading this, you are close to my age and likely already know all those things anyway.

Instead, as I settle into my internship at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, I’m intrigued by the working style differences between me and the rest of my department. To my knowledge, I’m the youngest by about 5 years, and I’m the only one still in college.

Let me start off by saying that this post, and probably a few to follow, aren’t meant to be a judgment on my colleagues, but rather a look at how age can influence how people work. It’s not about quality — I’ve seen people of all ages here and at the Missourian doing amazing journalism. And it’s not about quantity either. It’s more about style.

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