Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Freelancing Faux Pas

Post by Kerrie Flanagan

I am a self-taught writer. I don't have a degree in journalism or an MFA. I am actually an elementary school teacher by trade. But self-taught or not, there is no excuse for me to ignore THE basic backbone of all nonfiction---the facts.

I was hired to write a press release, but was asked to write it like an article-one that would tug on the heartstrings of the readers. The hope was the local newspapers would run the press release as a story and it would encourage readers to attend a nonprofit fundraising event.

I interviewed the people involved, researched the nonprofit and wrote the story. Before submitting it, a few writer friends read it and it brought tears to their eyes. I was thrilled and thought my job was done. That was until I got a call saying the subject of the story was upset because I had some important facts wrong.

My heart sunk. I knew better. I knew I should have double-checked some of the facts. It would have been easy for me at the end of the interview to take a couple of minutes to review the facts with the person I was interviewing.

The good news is that the press-release hadn't gone out yet and I was able to make the necessary changes. The bad news is it looked bad for the client who hired me and then she potentially looked bad to the organization who hired her to do the PR for the event.

Big lesson learned: Check the facts and don't make assumptions.

What writing faux pas' have you made?

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4 comments:

Jennifer Shirk said...

Oh, darn. Well, at least you got it before it went to press.

Name: Luana Krause said...

Sadly, it often takes something like this to teach us a lesson. I've had my share of hard lessons and looking back, they were blessings in disguise...I never made those mistakes again. Thanks for sharing, Kerrie.

Kerrie said...

I agree Luana, these kind of things are blessings in disguise. For me it will make me slow down and pay attention more.

Jennifer, I was really happy it hadn't gone to press yet.

Paul said...

Here's a secret. Every time you think you got it down, have all the bases covered, no longer have to be so critical of yourself, there's probably somthing your forgetting.

No matter how long you freelance or how adept you become, the mistakes will always be there waiting for you.

I usually just accept that that the longer I'm at it, the lonbger the list of mistakes will get. It's whether or not you learn from them that makes all the difference in the world.

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