Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A lesson relearned

I learned today why reporters shouldn’t send articles to the subjects of those articles for review.

Of course, I knew that already. I learned it years ago during that naïve, post-high-school summer when I wrote articles for a newspaper for the first time.

No matter how much they beg, if your first instinct says “No,” don’t send it to them. They will want to rewrite your article and change everything they said.

My editor wanted me to send a particular article to a particular subject, so despite my misgivings, I did it.

Big mistake. She’s that Type-A, do-it-herself, in-control type of person. Those are the dangerous ones, because they want to reword the entire piece in their favor.

I am a writer, not an advertiser. My job is to write a coherent, consistent story, a whole that is made up of its parts. I leave out what doesn’t fit, I include what is necessary for my angle, and I do it within the word count I have been given. That is my job. (And incidentally, the article is a profile! It is a favorable article! But she wanted more.)

Fortunately, my editor understands; she’s good like that. She’s a writer, too.

But unfortunately, now I have to deal with the consequences. Do I write her back and tell her “I’ll see what I can do?” Do I just ignore it and wait for the fallout when the article comes out and she sees that her changes have not been made? Do I tell her that her suggested changes don’t really fit the tone of our magazine?

The best thing may be to defer to the editor, because a good editor has your back. I can tell the lady to take it up with the editor, and then it’s out of my hands. Sweet relief.

It almost makes me rethink my dreams of becoming a book editor.


  1. i really think the only solution at this point is to hit her windshield with a baseball bat. diplomatic and concise. you know.

  2. I guess she learned a lesson too. If you want the fifteen seconds of fame from being in an article, the downside is you are at the mercy of the magazine.