The too-late panic attack

I worked the weekend shift at my newspaper, which involves covering anything newsworthy that happens on Friday afternoon/evening and Saturday afternoon/evening.

Friday was pretty quiet, but I was running around and writing like a fool on Saturday. I was relieved when I headed home at about 11 p.m. on Saturday.

Then I started driving home.

Alone in my car, my mind started churning as soon as I hit Interstate 97.

Dave or Drew? SuperFresh or Shoppers? Alison or Allison?

I had written so many stories (four!) so quickly, that I worried I had made mistakes.

My stories were edited, of course, and editors are good at finding things like numbers that don’t add up or using “affect” instead of “effect.” But they can’t look into my notebook and see if I wrote down a person’s name as “Alison” or “Allison.”

I tried to calm myself down on the drive home, reminding myself that when Alison spelled her name, I remarked I had a friend with the same spelling. Or that when I interviewed Dave, I made sure to check whether he preferred “Dave” or “David.”

I also tried to remind myself that it was too late, anyhow. By the time I got home at 11:30 p.m., it would probably too late to make any changes. I would just have to suffer the consequences if I did make a mistake.

I’m not sure why I worry so much. I do occasionally make mistakes — every journalist does. We’re not perfect. But I’m not a heavy presence in the corrections box. And I do my best (even when I’m rushed) to get the most important things correct.

I  imagine I’m not alone in this late-night panic over errors. I’d love to hear from my fellow journalists about their fears of making mistakes.

In the meanwhile, I’d love it if you’d read the insane amount of stories I wrote for The Sunday Capital. One story was written ahead of time, and the other four were written on my Saturday shift.

5 thoughts on “The too-late panic attack

  1. Nothing like the dreaded Corrections box. And nothing like second-guessing yourself. Hang in there, kid. You are a good journalist.

  2. Exactly. Second-guessing yourself is healthy, though it can drive you crazy sometimes. Someone completely free of doubt is a scary person.

    The experience is a universal enough one that it’s memorialized in Season 5 of “The Wire,” in which a city editor wakes up in the middle of the night and calls the copy desk, worried he transposed two numbers.

    It turns out — as it usually does — that he got it right the first time.

  3. Pam,

    Dealing with text on a daily basis myself means that I also find myself second guessing. It can be frustrating. WTH! They want speed and accuracy too!!!!!

    Names can be especially tricky because people spell them in so many different ways and they get insulted if you spell them wrong.

    But I am confident that you do an excellent job and everything is cool!!!!!!!


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