The editor was apologetic. It caught me off guard a little. Editors, I always assumed, have a handbook. Rule number one in that playbook was never apologize. At least that had been the case most of the time when I was a reporter full time. Edit mistakes into your copy? You should have been clearer so I would not have had to make any changes at all. Insist on moving something to a spot where it does not belong, destroying the flow and rhythm of the story. No, it is better like this. Now to be fair, as often as not, they were right. Everybody needs an editor, and once you figure that out and stop tilting at windmills life becomes much easier, or at least a little less stressful.
My attitude these days is pretty simple: You bought it, you can break it. Am I still upset if the story I read in print bears no resemblance to the one I turned in? I don’t know. It has not happened for a long time. But I don’t sweat the changes these days.
The editor I work for most of the time these days tends to go pretty easy on my copy. I appreciate that. He sends me to some assignments I once would have viewed as less than plum. I encourage that. I have been a sports editor. I know how tough it is trying to staff a dozen games or so in the same night. It takes a lot of freelancers, or as we call them “stringers.” Stringers can be a real pain in the ass. Stringers involve paperwork, and record keeping that nobody wants bothered with. The only thing worse than depending on stringers is not having enough of them.
When I string for folks, I try to be that easy to work with guy who never complains, makes deadline, and writes clean copy.
Anyhow, back to that apology. “Sorry for that assignment,” he said, probably after seeing me post comments about the game, which was a fiasco, on social media. I’d like to think reading my story also gave him a fine sense of what a debacle it had been.
But there was no need to be sorry for the assignment, I told him. When I was younger, my ego might have gotten in the way of a good story. I might even have stomped off cursing after I arrived at a junior college championship football game to find the press box had three seats, all occupied. I climbed up a ladder and found a spot to work in the coaches’ booth and settled in for the worst excuse for organized football I had seen in a while. And to be truthful, I was a little disgusted. I expected conditions at least equal to good high school football. I watched a game where both teams had more yards in penalties than they did rushing.
Here is the thing, though — I love the story I got out of it. The strangeness of the game allowed me to be creative in telling what happened.
Somebody once said people go to a game to have fun, then they grab the paper the next day to read about it and have fun again. I’d like to think this was that kind of a story.
That is what it is all about — the story. People ask me which team I am rooting for. I tell them I don’t care who wins as long as I get a good story out of it. I think I accomplished that in some of the stories linked below: