I had kind of a bad day at the office last week. I suspect you may have noticed. It involved my having to reprint the front section of the newspaper and then to distribute the new A-section to subscribers, stores and racks throughout the county.
I remember when a bad day at the office meant that I didn't get all of the lab reports filed in the medical records I was tending to, or that I had a hard time keeping up with lunch-rush fry production at the fast-food job I was working.
As a college writing instructor, a bad day at the office usually meant that I got behind in commenting on rough drafts and had to sheepishly tell my students I’d need another day or two before returning them.
Journalism is different. A bad day at the office means I've goofed up much more publicly. I felt a little embarrassed at the idea of subscribers receiving a second copy of the A-section of the newspaper to correct my error. But the embarrassment really came home as I sat on the floor of a few dozen stores and gas stations and switched out the old section for the new one.
People were very nice to me. When they inquired about what I was doing, I was honest. I explained that I’d accidentally omitted the legal notices, possibly the most important part of the newspaper, and the correction restored them to their rightful spot. I had to make an adjustment to our Nostalgia page to pull this off, but otherwise the replacement section was almost identical to the old one. Oh, and I replaced the front-page notice about Sunday's time change with an explanation of the reason for the replacement edition.
I’m the editor and general manager of The Marshfield Mail, and the buck stops with me when there’s a mistake in the paper. However, there are a lot of people above me, like my publisher, our company president, and the owner of our media group.
All of these people were unflinchingly kind, and no one yelled at me or expressed any anger at all. Of course, this just made me feel extra bad about my mistake. I doubt I'll make that blunder again, but we never really predict our blunders with any accuracy, do we? They always happen by surprise.
I was really proud of how well a whole team of people came together to help me right my wrong. Reporter Sarah Bicknell was out on Halloween in her adorable flapper costume replacing the faulty section in Marshfield stores. A page designer, Jean, was extra patient with me, even as I offered a dozen conflicting instructions before settling on the proper way to correct the matter. Our customer service representative, also named Karen, did a great job of keeping legal advertisers informed about how we were correcting the error. And my publisher, Jamey Honeycutt, was proactive in getting advice for fixing the problem, talking to all relevant parties, and then coordinating the cleanup effort.
People are good. I know we all make mistakes, and I’m moving forward with optimism in confidence that I won’t make this one again, but it is very good to know that the biggest blunder I could imagine was fixable, in the end, and a wonderful team of kind and capable people were standing by to help me make things right. I wish the same for you on the day your big goof-up comes — or better yet, that it never comes at all.