Great readers keep us honest, always

Published 11:31 pm Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Even though it is false hope, I’m eternally optimistic about one thing at the newspaper.

I always hope you won’t catch our mistakes — specifically, my own personal mistakes.

I’m a perfectionist. I hate to be wrong. I can’t stand for my errors to be pointed out.

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And I have a bad habit of recognizing my own mistakes minutes too late.

I did it just last week. I typed “our” instead of “out” in a headline in large print on the front page of the newspaper. I typed it, and kept powering through the rest of the layout to be done. I was running late that night and deadline was looming. Most of us at the newspaper tend to do a large quantity of our work on adrenaline, and there’s no greater push than the final deadline of the night when the newspaper is in your hands.

The person responsible for proofing my “our” instead of “out” overlooked the error too. He also was facing his own deadlines for the sports section, and I imagine he was running on as much adrenaline as I was.

I completed the pages, and sent them to the press. I took a few minutes to breath, relaxed and let the adrenaline die down.

Then I started putting the information from the newspaper onto the Web site. A few minutes into the job I paused to browse the front page I’d built, just reading the headlines.

It felt like my heart stopped and my face went cold. I saw the headline error. I quickly listened for the presses to determine if it was too late to correct the oversight.

The presses were already running. I would have to deal with my error.

But, remember, I’m optimistic about these things. That night — even though I knew at the time it was a fallible thought — I said to myself “Awh, no one will notice.”

Wrong. I talked with an angry reader the next day who was ready to stop reading the newspaper altogether because of my error.

The lesson? We can’t sneak anything by you guys.

Tuesday’s edition of the newspaper contained a story written by a new member of our staff — Cassandra Mickens.

Cassandra started Friday, and we have plans to introduce her to all of you in this coming Sunday’s Business section with a small write-up and photo.

But, you — the reader — have already beat us to it. By 7:14 a.m. Tuesday morning one of our Web readers had posted a comment pointing out that Cassandra was new.

So since I’ve learned my lesson about “sneaking” things by you, I’ll go ahead and share a bit about some of the changes in our staff.

Cassandra is here as an intern. She’s only here for a short amount of time, and will return to the University of Alabama where she is nearly through with her master’s degree in community journalism.

Other new faces here include photographer Steve VanGunda, who came to Natchez from Oklahoma. He has family in town, though, and has visited Natchez off and on his whole life.

Jennifer Edwards started work here Monday and will be doing a mix of feature writing and graphic design work for us. Jennifer’s husband Jeff is our sports editor. They have two adorable daughters.

And on Monday, the last two pieces of our staff puzzle will join us.

Patrick Ochs, a recent graduate of Ole Miss, will be the sports reporter.

And Brian Reynolds, a recent graduate of the University of Alabama will be writing, designing and doing some Web site work with us.

The new faces fill some long-open positions and will help us better spread the workload so we can all focus on bringing a better product to you.

But, rest assured, I’ll make another typo soon. And I’ll once again hope you don’t notice.

Julie Finley is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or