I’m Not A Good Journalist

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a good journalist. For the longest time, I’ve been some random guy that has a fascination and curiosity with WordPress and have used a website to document my journey. Somehow over the years, that’s lead me to become this thing called a journalist. A title given to me by my peers, not by me. Personally, I don’t like the title of journalist but I don’t have much of a say in the matter.

When it comes to writing stories, for whatever reason I don’t do common sense journalistic things which in many aspects, are just common courtesy. For example, asking for permission to use text in a conversation as a quote attributed to that person. Or, ask someone to answer a few questions for an article and instead of using a snippet, I use their answers in the form of an interview without consulting them first.

What sucks about these kinds of mistakes I’ve made and continue to make is that deleting a post doesn’t work. Once I hit the publish button, I must deal with the consequences if I screwed up. It’s depressing and gives me a sickening feeling in my stomach to receive an email from a person I quoted in an article asking me why I didn’t tell them their words would be used in the way that I presented them. In just about every instance, they’re in the right while I’m definitely in the wrong. The only thing I can do at that point is apologize, tell them I can take the post down and that I understand if my actions have burned the bridge of communication between us.

In an effort to try to prevent myself from continuously falling into this trap, I’m writing down a list of things to do (and print) or consider when I’m involving other people into articles I write.

  1. Understand it’s my responsibility and mine alone to make sure the other party knows specifically how their words will be used.
  2. If I tell the other party I’m going to use their words in one way and in mid-stream decide to use them in another, inform the other party of the change as it’s their right. It also gives them an opportunity to allow or deny the use.
  3. Always ask for permission and never assume. Assumptions are traps and almost always lead to trouble.
  4. Just because my email signature says everything is on the record unless told otherwise, it’s not enough for a lot of people or they don’t see it.
  5. Never ever take words from private conversations and make them public through a post without explicit permission.
  6. If the post is an interview, send the person you interviewed a private review copy of the post out of courtesy before it’s published for review. Or if you end up using a lot of quotes provided by them in a post. This is probably one of the most important things to keep in mind as a final OK from them drastically reduces the chance of getting a pissed off email from them.

Some of the things are repeated and for good measure. Many of the things I have in my list are common sense/common courtesy but damn if I ever think these things through before hitting the publish button. I feel like shit when I mess these things up and get an angry email. It also doesn’t help when the victims are people I know and interact with at WordCamps and other places. There are only so many bridges that can be burned before no one will talk to me. I need to take all this shit more seriously and treat the conversations people have with me with more respect.

If you’ve been a victim of my negligence, I sincerely apologize.

5 thoughts on “I’m Not A Good Journalist

  1. Maybe it is time for you to create a side project you can use/experiment with to continue deepening your WordPress learning. Build a WordPress theme or plugin, try creating something where you have to solve problems using WordPress so you can go back to documenting what you’ve learned vs just pushing news. Might help you avoid such issues in the future. ;) (not sure what happened…)

    • I’ve been thinking about it. In the early days, the Tavern acted as my testing grounds for plugins and themes. It was also my place to document findings and things that solved problems. I’ve lost all that now that the site is no longer mine and the site needs to be up more than down :).

      There’s a reason why in the early days, I mostly wrote about things that were already public knowledge. It’s because I didn’t have to deal with the bullcrap of talking about things through email and such and risk using knowledge from those conversations into an article.

      I’m no journalist, I’m a connector. I connect people with people, people to articles, discussions to people, people to events, etc. I interact with lots of folks every day in different areas such as the Advanced Facebook user group, Reddit etc mostly because those areas remind of the Tavern forum. I miss the forum. Not only was it an outlet for me to just talk about WordPress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without worrying about journalistic crap, but it was a great source of content ideas to turn into posts. Wisdom of the crowds so to speak helped me generate content for the site and it was all public knowledge.

      Writing about events and covering things in the WordPress ecosystem is what I’m known for but it’s not what I’m the best at. It’s the activity portion of connecting the dots that I’m good at.

      With all that said, I have my rules in front of me, I just have to follow them .

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