03 August 2016

“You didn’t err, we did!”

A senior editor of a well-known Sunday newspaper once told an interesting story about one of his former bosses.  At the time, our editor had been a cub reporter.  New to the job.  Handicapped by lack of experience.  He had made a mistake.  The Editor-in-Chief had called him to his office. 

The young man, naturally, had been very nervous.  He expected a admonishment or worse.  What really happened marked him forever. 

“We missed that story,” he began.  

The cub reporter was smart enough to note the ‘we’ of that statement.  It could have meant either ‘I missed the story’ or else ‘we, as a team, screwed up’.  Either way, the editor was essentially giving the young man a break.  He didn’t say ‘you missed the story’.   He could have, but did not. 

The cub reporter who rose to become the Editor-in-Chief of that very same newspaper related the story to his understudy.  The ‘understudy’ never forgot the story either. 

In this case clearly the cub reporter had erred.  It was his mistake.  The boss could have told him so.  The boss did not.  This is what he did instead.

“Let’s find a different angle.”

He wasn’t giving up.  The competing newspapers would have got the story that his reporter missed, but he was already thinking of doing something they wouldn’t have thought of. 

So they worked out a strategy.  They looked for some element that could be explored.  They generated a spin-off report the following day. 

That was a lesson in reporting.  It was also a lesson in taking responsibility.  For debacles.  Invaluable for rebels and especially rebel leaders. 

It is all about taking responsibility.   For debacles.  It is easy to pass the buck.  But there is more than one way of pointing out a mistake.  The editor who used ‘we’ instead of ‘you’ used such a method.  The cub reporter knew he had done something wrong but at the end of the day he not only knew what he should have done but what he should do to make the best out of a bad situation.  His boss didn’t harp on his chinks, but gently and firmly patched it up or polished the rough edges off, and in the matter of a few minutes made his a better reporter.  And the cub reporter passed the story on.  He must have learned something about leadership that day.  

*When I was working at 'The Nation' I wrote a column for the FREE section of the paper which was dedicated to youth.  The title of the column was 'Notes for a Rebel'.  I wrote a total of 52 articles in this series.  I have resumed by 'Notes for a Rebel', this time writing for the website www.nightowls.lk.  Scroll down for the other articles in this series on rebels and rebellion.

Other articles in this series

Whatever happens, keep your heart

Make sure you don't miss the bus! Revolution is a game, really Little things to matter

Think of roots and wings
T is for Trivial
Don't hold back when you groom The sun will never set

When the enemy expands consider inflation
When you are the last one standing
Targets visible and targets unidentified
When you have to vote
So when are you planning to graduate?
The belly of the beast is addictive
When you meet pomposity, flip the script
When did you last speak with an old man?
Dear Rebel, please keep it short
Get ready for those setbacks
The rebel must calculate or perish
Are you ready to deceive?
Dear Rebel, 'P' is also for 'Proportion' 
Dear Rebel, have you got the e-factor out of the way?
Have you carefully considered the f-word?
It is so easy to name the enemy, right?
The p-word cuts both ways
Cards get reflected in eyes, did you know?
It's all about timing 
Heroes and heroism are great, but...
Recruiting for a rebellion
The R, L and H of 'Rebellion'
Pack in 'Humor' when you gather rebellion-essentials
When the enemy is your best friend
The MSM Principle of Engagement
Dear Rebel, get some creature-tips!
Dear Rebel, get through your universities first
Read the enemies' Bibles
Poetry, love and revolution
Are you ready to shut down your petrol shed
The details, the details!
Know your comrades
Good to meditate on impermanence.
Time is long, really long
Learn from the termites 
Be warned: the first victory is also the first defeat
Prediction is asking for trouble
Visualize, strategize and innovate
How important is authority?
Don't forget to say 'Hello!'
It's not over until you clean up!
Have you met 'PB' of Alutwela?
Are you sure about those selfies?
Power and principles
'Few does not mean 'weak'




Anonymous said...

Beautiful way of passing messages.Is strong ,firm and soft .Motivating the cub while showing the quality of the leader.

Anonymous said...

What is your opinion on Kumara Chapa Bandara??

A video of him: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoOg8J1wUDY

Is he a good investigative journalist, or just a conspiracy theorist?

Do you know him personally?