The phone rang as it has a habit of doing during the work day. When I answered, I was greeted with a fairly strident voice apologizing for what he was about to say.
Now, I’m not sure about you, but I don’t have many upbeat conversations that start that way. I had a pretty good idea where this one was headed.
The caller, a regular PRB reader, went on to detail how our fact-checking department had dropped the ball on an article we ran late in 2009 and how this type of problem could have been avoided if we ran our fact-checking department the way The New York Times ran theirs.
As he took me to task, part of me couldn’t help but wonder if we had ever been compared to The New York Times.
I know, I know–not necessarily an appropriate thought when you’re being chewed out, but I was intrigued.
The answer is fairly obvious. I don’t think we’ve ever been compared to The New York Times, but I like the thought that our little company here in Ohio could put out a publication of such quality that the comparison could even be made.
Oh and for the record, I don’t think he was joking.
Eventually, I was able to ask questions and dig deeper into his specific concerns.
It became apparent that he did have a point. Our facts were correct (a big sigh of relief for the fact-checking department), but the story was a bit superficial. We could have dug deeper. We could have provided more technical detail.
In the end, we agreed to work together to produce a revised article on the subject–one that goes into more detail than not only the previous story, but any other story on the subject.
And, ultimately, this was the most satisfying part of the conversation—a complaint in which turned into the customer volunteering to be part of the solution. Has that ever happened to you?
Well, I offer this as proof that it could.
At the end of the conversation, I walked into the restroom, looked into the mirror and held a meeting with my fact-checking department.
He promised me that, like The New York Times fact-checkers, he would stay vigilant. Then, with a wink, I headed back to the corporate office for a late lunch in the board room with my many minions.
Ah, dang – peanut butter and jelly and an apple … again.
Guess we have to up the budget.
Till next month…
Rodney J. Auth