Journeyman Journalist, 1979: A little self-serving

Reading Time: 2 minutes
The rare Bobber Tree at Southford Falls State Park, Connecticut, November 20, 2020. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

About this series: I revisited my journals from my first year as a freelance writer and found they told a story of their own. In this series I get the rare opportunity to give myself and other writers career advice with nearly 50 years of hindsight. Enjoy!

When you work for a print medium like a weekly newspaper, you learn to live with your mistakes. The mistakes of fact are easy enough: You can run a correction in the next edition. Mistakes of judgment are seldom so cooperative.

My mistake of judgment was announcing my appointment as managing editor on the Journal Opinion’s front page. The argument for this, from a news perspective, is that the readers should know who is behind the paper’s coverage, who is responsible for getting their stories into print. It’s reader-friendly.

In truth, though, it’s only ego-friendly. As I was putting the next week’s paper to bed, I had second thoughts.

A full day of work, bur a good one! I was lucky the copy load was light and I had no meeting at night — therefore, I had pages 1, 2, and 3 to bed before 3:30 inthe morning — my usual time for finishing off just the arts page. I feel a little self-serving about p. 1 this week, but that will pass, I think.

Journal, Volume III
12 November 1979

These things do pass, eventually. Often blunders you make in one issue will be forgotten when the next one comes out. Then again, they may resurface 44 years later when you’re going through a diary.

My regrets did have their repercussions for at least one week, though. Wednesday night, a week after my Page 1 appearance, I was on assignment at a school board meeting:

I also attended the BAGSD meeting tonight, where I received congratulations on my promotion. Interesting turn of phrase, that — considering it was front page material. The meeting did drag on, however, and I shared bored glances with [the school district’s lawyer].

All in all, an odd day.

Journal, Volume III
14 November 1979

The day — the whole week — would have been less odd if I simply hadn’t considered myself so newsworthy. But these things happen, unless you learn to avoid them.

And the only way you learn to avoid mistakes is to make them in the first place.

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