Friday, July 06, 2007

Wall Street Journal, Day 28: Cold Calling

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. - The copy chief was nice enough to give Tyler (the other intern) and me a day off on the Fourth of July. Not that I did a whole lot with the day off---other than seeing Michael Moore's new film (or "documentary") Sicko (which is good-veering-on-great in unexpected ways for Moore---less emphasis on politics, more on affecting universal human stories and tragedies---and not-so-good in typical ones. I keep saying this for other new movies I've seen, but I hope to write a little bit about it in some later blog entry), I didn't even bother to watch the fireworks on TV. I think I lost my capacity to be dazzled by fireworks displays years ago, sorry to say, since they're always just about how bright and noisy they are. These days, I guess, brightness and noisiness doesn't quite do it for me (which probably explains my generally lukewarm reaction to the new Die Hard flick, as dazzling as it occasionally is).

I was back at work today---back at my 4:30-11:30 p.m. shift, which seemed especially super-not-busy tonight. There were a lot of Saturday Pursuits stories to edit---but the assigning editor for the night must have given most of the big ones away to the more experienced interns of the group. And by more-experienced, I mean pretty much everyone other than myself.

Still, the night was not without interest.

Every night, after 7:30 p.m. lock-up for the U.S. edition, each one of us gets a couple of page proofs to quickly look over. So if we see a mistake or something, we can let the paginators know and they can fix it for a later edition.

Today, while looking over one of the proofs I got, I discovered a fairly large error---a name that was misspelled. I checked our archives on Factiva, and I checked the company's press releases, and let the deputy editor know about the error. He insisted that I try to contact the reporters (two of them wrote the story in question) to get their verification.

This was the challenge of the night for me. Up to now, I haven't had a great need to make any physical calls to reporters to check up on something. Usually, if I had queries, I simply send someone an e-mail and wait until he/she gets back to me. For me, being as shy and self-conscious as I sometimes am, I prefer the relative anonymity of e-mail over talking on the phone. Today, though, I found myself in the position of having to try to track down these reporters doggedly until I got a response from them. I'll admit it---it got me nervous, probably because I tend to get nervous about the possibility of failure. My faint fear wasn't helped by the fact that neither of the two reporters were getting back to me at all---not at their work numbers (although I kind of expected that, since it was around 9:30 p.m. at night when I discovered the mistake), not at their home or mobile numbers.

Turns out...e-mail was the medium that got me the answer I needed. E-mail and Blackberry, since one of the reporters got back to me on his Blackberry. It was too late to get it fixed for the all-important four-star edition, alas...but at least I didn't fail. It wasn't smooth or pretty, but I got what I was looking for (I was right about the name being spelled incorrectly). What started out looking like a night in which I would end up obsessing over how clumsily I carried out my quest for an elusive answer ended up being rather more upbeat (although I wonder if I could have gotten the correction made for the four-star edition had I not accidentally x-ed out of my Microsoft Outlook when the reporter sent me the response e-mail; it took me a little less than 20 minutes to check again and discover the note. Oops). I feel like I genuinely accomplished something new today. Maybe next time I won't feel so nervous about picking up the phone and making a call to a reporter or editor if I absolutely need to do so.

No comments: