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Reporters are human and make mistakes

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I believe that to err is human and to forgive is divine, and that student journalists at Colorado State University-Pueblo are worthy of the same forgiveness from Joe Public.

Last week, a student reminded me that the CSU-Pueblo TODAY staff are not professional journalists. This past weekend, another student said she occasionally finds a misspelled word or grammatical error in our online and print products. I wish to address both comments.

Yes, our student journalists are not professionals (yet), which is why they are taking journalism and media lab courses at CSU-Pueblo. And yes, a misspelled word or grammatical error occasionally slips past us. It’s true, we do make mistakes but then, every publication does.

Please understand that CSU-Pueblo TODAY is written by student journalists learning their profession. Like real-world reporters, the staff makes every attempt to report the news accurately, fairly and quickly.  And, like real-world reporters, they too make mistakes. I believe they’re doing a great job considering they’re a non-professional staff.

I, too, have had made mistakes, and have been bombarded with everything from constructive criticism (always welcome) to profanity-peppered hate mail. I tell those who submit the latter that I know of one person believed to be perfect, but still needed help being taken down from the wood cross.

Journalism is a rewarding but lonely and nerve-wracking experience in which reporters often ask themselves if they chose the right career path. And the reasons are obvious.

Reporters can spend hours arranging for and conducting interviews by phone, e-mail or in person, only to have the interview canceled. Worse yet, reporters often deal with miss-scheduled events, or are denied photographic opportunities because the interviewee doesn’t consider our reporters, “real journalists” (a frequent problem on this campus).

The task becomes more difficult when reporters sit down at the computer to write copy or edit film footage. Sometimes it takes hours to complete a story, and even days when producing a project of lengthy proportion. The 2010 commencement ceremony, recorded and produced by video chief Char Gray, is one example.

Reporters write with one eye on the clock and the other on the keyboard. They write and re-write, and edit and re-edit copy until their eyes blur, only to re-write some more. Reporters deal with cranky interviewees, demanding editors and an indignant public, and often operate on little sleep and lots of black coffee.

Some reporters have ditched class so they can complete a story for publication. While I discourage this practice, I admire the reporters’ dedication and perseverance to provide readers with a finished, informative product. It’s a wonder reporters don’t make more mistakes considering the amount of work they have to complete in such a short amount of time.

Yes, the CSU-Pueblo TODAY staff is not perfect. However, they are, without question, a group of dedicated reporters whose work ethic rivals any publication. In addition to providing news, features and sports, the staff this semester is exploring creative avenues outside their professional comfort zone.

Zak Bratton, who is managing editor of CSU-Pueblo TODAY magazine, writes a weekly video game column that has generated student interest and positive feedback. Now, I’m not in Zak’s league as a video game enthusiast; however, many students enjoy video games, and it is for this audience that his column exists.

There’s more…

News and sports editors Nikki Martinez and Joe Foley soon will launch weekly crime beat and sports columns. Along with Gray, videographer Monique Garcia continues to produce interesting footage of campus events for online publication. And despite their not being journalism-emphasis students, Molly Hubbard and Nick Townsend have proven themselves as writers.

And that’s not all…

Wendy Fidler, who last month graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications, edits feature and entertainment stories during her free time. Luke Arledge, who has an art background, also has written copy for online publication.

Each of these people is an asset to the staff because of their talent, skill and contributions. They do this for the love of the profession, and because they believe that reporting the news is priority one.

It’s interesting to note that it is because of the efforts of this elite group of people that CSU-Pueblo TODAY continues to expand its readership. These reporters give new meaning to the phrase, “Big things come from small packages.”

Yes, you can expect our publication to contain errors because making errors in a learning environment prepares student reporters for the real world. Mistakes happen because –yes, you guessed it – reporters are human.

Rather than point out mistakes, why not thank a reporter for working to make campus news available to you? Better yet, why not share your ideas with that reporter? I have no doubt that the reporter will appreciate your comments, and that you will inspire the reporter to work harder at bringing you the information you deserve.

William J. Dagendesh is editor in chief of CSU-Pueblo TODAY.  He can be contacted at wj.dagendesh@colostate-pueblo.edu.

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