Shortly after my graduation from Cal Poly, I was offered an entry level editing position at my hometown daily. This was back in the day when glue and rollers were still used to paste up articles and ads in the production department.
I always took pride in my perfectionism, and even when professors warned all the journalism students that we would make mistakes, I refused to believe I’d miss anything major.
With 20 years of newspapers under my belt, let me now say that I was wrong. Completey. Utterly. Wrong.
Mistakes happen and readers notice and bosses yell and journalists are haunted and mistakes happen again and the process starts all over from the beginning.
My very first major mistake happened within a week of my being hired at my first professional job. I was running late designing an agriculture news page and finished slightly after deadline. My hands wrote the headlines and my eyes were the only set to proof the page.
While looking over our finished product the following day, I scanned the page I was so proud to complete and was absolutely horrified. I’d misspelled a very important word in the lead headline.
What should have been a header introducing a story about public farmland had become a story about pubic—yes, PUBIC—farms. I’d missed the “L”—and it made all the difference in the world.
So I learned very quickly that’s it’s OK to strive for perfection, just know mistakes will happen, readers will notice and bosses will yell. We’ve all been there.