Last week I was flipping through some old issues of a magazine where I once worked as executive editor, and was horrified to find a couple of typos along the way. Not surprisingly, they were in the table of contents, where errors like that seem to slip through most commonly because it’s one of the last pages to ship and you’re always in a hurry.
It makes me wonder how the heck I ended up in publishing, an industry where you’re frequently judged by the last thing you created. It’s the same in movies, fashion, and other creative pursuits, I assume. You’re only as good as your last project. You put your heart and soul into your work, dependent on the approval of your client or your boss or an audience of 12-year-olds that may or may not have any taste.
But then I realized there are jobs where your mistakes get even more scrutiny than publishing. This month alone, notably crazy boss Jerry Jones fired Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips after an admittedly wretched 1-7 start. The University of Colorado fired football coach Dan Hawkins after the team blew a 28-point lead in the final 11 minutes of the game against Kansas.
But it’s not just the firings that are amazing in sports. Every single week, the split-second decisions coaches and players make on the field are scrutinized by columnists, by fans, by sportscasters. Who the heck needs that kind of criticism? I was at Candlestick Park for the 49ers-Eagles game earlier this year, and every time Alex Smith threw an incomplete pass, the crowd booed. As Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell said last week, “You need an alligator skin to be a quarterback.”
But people outside the sports or the creative pursuits aren’t immune either. With the public sector striving for increased transparency, you frequently see news of cops’ being put on administrative leave after errors in judgment. Here in the Bay Area over the last year, the Johannes Meserhle trial has been front-page news, following the tribulations of a transit officer who, intending to stun a rowdy passenger, accidentally shot him instead.
In another case of public-sector transparency, the New York Times reported last week about a Los Angeles school teacher who apparently committed suicide. The Los Angeles Times published an analysis of every teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, in which the teacher was rated “less effective than average.”
And of course, the recent election proves that politicians’ every move is sliced and diced and analyzed. It’s not enough that President Obama has to lead the free world – he also has to worry about snap judgments on every statement, smile, and interaction. Talk about living in a fishbowl.
Upon further review, those typos seem positively benign.