|Emily VanDerWerff||Feb 9, 2017|
Hey, we've got a correction: When I said in Monday's newsletter with no equivocation that Master of None wouldn't be eligible for the Emmys this year, it turns out that's not true! I can't yet confirm if the show will be eligible (as Netflix has yet to announce a date or even a month), but everybody involved sure would love for it to be eligible, and shooting is completed. So maybe it will happen! (I clearly picked the wrong Netflix show to make an offhand joke about.)
I hate making corrections. I mean, obviously, no journalist likes to make corrections, even minor ones, because the core idea is supposed to be getting the facts right.
But I bristle a little when I make a typo and somebody calls me on it. I've talked a little bit about how when you make even the smallest of mistakes in a story, your social media will light up with people informing you that you spelled "accommodate" wrong. (Sidebar: Every writer has some dumb word that they can never remember how to spell. Mine are accommodate and hemorrhage. So be on the lookout, I guess? The Vox copy editors are good at what they do, so they're hopefully catching my misspellings.)
To be clear: This is totally a personal failing on my part. On, actually, the part of most journalists I know, because we often have this tendency. It might be the most human thing in the world to, when confronted with a mistake you've made, want the person confronting you to be wrong. But that happens maybe two or three times in your entire life. The rest of the time, you have to just suck it up.
The nice thing about being a journalist, then, is that you get ample opportunity to learn how to suck it up and admit when you're wrong. I'd love to say I'm the very picture of grace, but I'm not. I'd also love to say that I immediately realize the wisdom of those who correct me, but I don't. But where I have gotten after my time in this career (I was going to say how many years, but it made me feel old) is to a place where I manage gratefulness once I work through the initial internal backlash. I wish I'd had that earlier in my career, when I worked at newspapers and would get these longwinded calls from old people about some minute thing that was incorrect that we, nevertheless, had to run an in-print correction for the next day. But, alas, I wasn't there back then.
Anyway, you've read my mea culpa, so let me tell you about the most embarrassing error I made.
When I used to work at the Press-Enterprise of Riverside, California, I started out on the copy desk. Soon enough, various people noticed I was a.) ambitious and b.) a TV fan, so they moved me to the features department where I was, essentially, going to be a one-person TV editor. I would pick copy up off the wires, generate some of my own, and just generally make sure the paper's TV coverage was up to snuff. (I saw this as a chance to start writing reviews; my bosses had other feelings on the matter.)
Anyway, part of the job was pulling in the daily TV grid and putting it on the TV page. We had recently killed our Sunday TV Guide to save money -- because so many of our readers had TV guides on their cable boxes anyway -- but because of the loud, vocal core of our audience who didn't have cable boxes and really did rely on the TV book, it was imperative that we ran the TV grid every day in the same place on the same page.
You can maybe see where this is going!
One day, I came in to work, and basically everybody in my department looked at me with grave, ashen faces. My boss took me aside and showed me the page I was responsible for, then pointed to the TV grid. It was for the wrong day -- which is to say we had run Monday's grid two days in a row, and Tuesday's grid was nowhere to be seen. The deluge of calls the paper had received, at every level, was sort of hilariously unprecedented. He didn't even chew me out (as he could have), because he knew that I was going to spend my day talking to people who were convinced what I had done was a conspiracy to somehow deprive them of television. (Seriously, I had multiple conversations where the essential thrust was that the PE, having killed its TV guide, was now trying to conspire to get people to read the newspaper by not letting them know what was on TV at all.)
Now, this error, like most journalistic errors, involved multiple people. There were editors and proofers and copy editors who should have caught it. But I was ground zero. I introduced the error. And thus, it was my mess to clean up.
In the grand scheme of things, this error wasn't that bad. Some people lost one day's worth of TV listings. I have probably made graver factual errors in the years since then, and I have almost certainly made worse errors in terms of taste or what I write about. But I have never had another day like that Tuesday, when seemingly every person over 80 in California's Inland Empire called to let me know that I had screwed up. And then, after I apologized, they would ask how I still had a job. And then, after I apologized again, they would click their tongues and tell me just how far standards had fallen.
Which was probably true. After all, the newspaper employed me. What was the world coming to?
Episodes is published three-ish times per week, and more if I feel like it. It is mostly about television, except when it's not. Suggest topics for future installments via email or on Twitter. Read more of my work at Vox Dot Com.