After deadline: Billions and billions of stories written, or so it seems

Imagine you work at McDonald's.

I did. Back in high school and then again for a short while in college. I refer to it as "the glory days."

Anyway, say you're working and a customer comes in, orders a Big Mac then says they'd like to review the burger before you're allowed to serve it because one time he or she ordered a Big Mac in the past and it didn't come out quite right.

As that highly trained burger maker (in German, you'd be called "Das Burgermeister"), how do you feel about this?

I'm A Professional


My guess is you'd say, "Uh, hey, sir or madam, I tell you what. I'll make that Big Mac for you, and if there's a problem, let me know. But honestly, I make hundreds of Big Macs daily, and there's never a problem with my Big Macs."

That's how I feel when someone wants to "have a quick look" at a story for which they were interviewed before it goes to press. "Just want to make sure there's no mistakes," they say. "I was interviewed once before, and they got something wrong."

Been doing this for decades. The mistakes I've made have been minimal.

My standard response is, "If I have any questions, I'll call you or shoot you a quick email. But otherwise, I've got what I need."

It's my polite way of saying the last thing I need is another cook in the kitchen. And what I really don't want is you editing your own quotes -- which I possibly have on tape, word for word -- making them more bland, more politically correct and less, well, quoteworthy.

Do No Harm

Over the years, I've developed an ear for a good quote. Generally, people start answering any question with a sentence full of fluff, something along the lines of "Well, I really think it's important that we consider all sides of this issue and we evaluate the parameters of blah blah blah," before they say something interesting like, "But the mayor is a dirty so and so, and if he wants to outlaw puppies and happiness all in the name of not watching where you walk in the park, I say it's time I ran for mayor and sent him packing."

I'm quoting everything after the "But."


When I hear a good quote I write it down, word for word.

However, if I hear someone say something interesting but I know I didn't hear it word for word, I'll put the letter NQ in my notes. That's my personal abbreviation for "not a quote." It's my way of saying, this is what you heard, but paraphrase it because you don't have the quote verbatim.

People talk quickly. I can only write or type so fast before they outpace me.

Offended Offenders

Hard-working business reporter Jeff Kiger said the people who most often ask to "look things over first" are business owners. Most, he said, have only dealt with the newspaper to place ads, and there they get to review ads. But a story is not an advertisement, and what you say is what we write.

Like Kiger, I agree that average folks who don't deal with the media can be cut a little slack. If they say something inflammatory we might give them half a chance to walk that back.

But, and I agree with Kiger on this, politicians and CEOs of big companies get no slack because they ought to know better.

Recently, I was talking to the mayor of a small town at a meeting. Also there was the reporter from the local weekly newspaper. Now, the weekly has a policy that they only write about what happens at the meeting between the gavels. Once the meeting is closed, they're "off the record."


I have no such policy. So, when I was asking the mayor some clarifying questions after the meeting, he was suddenly surprised I was taking notes, and he basically said I couldn't take notes once the meeting was done.

"No," I said. "That's her policy."

For me, it's all fair game. And you can quote me on that.

What To Read Next
Get Local