Making mistakes in an instant media age

The last 24 hours have been sobering.  Like many of you, I’m stretched thin right now, teaching classes, trying to finish a book, pressed by a consulting deadline, trying to contribute to True/Slant. And so I’ve posted too quickly, intending to catch any mistakes in “preview,” before the post goes online.

There’s one small problem. Not once but twice I have accidentally pushed “publish” instead.  Both posts had mistakes. I caught them within minutes and re-posted.  But by then they had surely been catalogued somewhere in bits and bytes. One was really sloppy.

Not a big deal, you say?  And in the grand scheme of things you’re certainly right. I’m just, after all, getting to the point where, in addition to my golden retriever and tabby cat, a few of you read me. With millions and millions of  bloggers in the universe, who cares, you might ask.

My answer: I do. After a career in newspapers and teaching, I know darn well how easy it is to make mistakes. I know that speed kills accuracy. I know that reputations are built over a lifetime and can crash and burn in minutes. I know how little the public already thinks of the news media.

Many of you live in this land of blogging. You post far more frequently than I. Perhaps you’re just younger, sharper and faster. Perhaps mistakes don’t matter to you. They can be fixed. Get over it.

For me, that’s a hard adjustment.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.


About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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4 Responses to Making mistakes in an instant media age

  1. gypsysister says:

    The world needs more sticklers for accuracy. Thank you for taking time with your your posts! If you want to be extra careful, type everything up in a word document or email to yourself first, proofread, then post it here or wherever else you contribute.

    Good thing you can re-post. I’d love an edit function as a commenter, cause my typing skills are pitiful, and occasionally I paste information from some other place because I forgot to copy something (properly).

    • Jerry Lanson says:

      Thanks gypsysister. I wish I were a more successful stickler. Then I’d always get things right the first time. I think I will take your advice and go back to writing my blogs in Word, printing and proofing, and then cutting and pasting. Writing directly to the Web is fast but it’s clearly more dangerous. It’s likely generational, but one thing I struggle with is the constantly amped up need for speed today. I had my share of adrenalin rushes in the newsroom. (The 1989 Bay Area earthquake and the Oakland Hills fire are two that come to mind.) And surely news demands quick reaction. Still, that’s very different to me from instant posting, which is The Thing today. Twitter is something I don’t get and have resisted adamantly for just that reason.

  2. Steve Weinberg says:

    My slice of T/S Web space involves wrongful convictions. Some of those wrongful convictions would have been stopped if journalists were more vigilant, and accurate, during their information gathering. There is no substitute for accuracy–factual and contextual. Even amateur bloggers should know that–and, fortunately, many do care about accuracy.

    • Jerry Lanson says:

      I hear you prof (Missouri ’75). I will say these mistakes didn’t live long (less than 5 minutes) but I wish they hadn’t at all. That’s the danger of those instant buttons. I’ve learned. I’m humbled.

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