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.
- Understand it’s my responsibility and mine alone to make sure the other party knows specifically how their words will be used.
- 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.
- Always ask for permission and never assume. Assumptions are traps and almost always lead to trouble.
- 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.
- Never ever take words from private conversations and make them public through a post without explicit permission.
- 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.