Apologizing for an Apology

This is a story of those golden days of journalism when editorial was supreme, not like present days when marketing people call the shot. In those days marketing people used to think twice before entering editorial – the place where reporters and desk people work. The words of Editor used to be final because in newspaper hierarchy editorial enjoyed the hegemony.

Those were the days when news stories were typed on Remington and hand subbed. There used to be an old breed of eagle eyed Proof Readers whose work was to correct the typographic errors and ensure the final proof was error free. They used to be part of editorial and the Editor was their boss in real sense.

This story is weaved in this atmosphere.

In his third day in office a young Proof Reader in one of the prestigious English newspapers of mid-sixties in Lucknow was asked to read proof of a matrimonial advertisement. He inadvertently allowed the telephone number to go with the advertisement instead of post box number.

The hell bent loose once the advertisement was published. The client got angry when he started receiving calls in response to that matrimonial advertisement. He rang up Advertisement Manager and questioned why his telephone number was published in newspaper. The manager knew nothing about it. After a little probe all accusing fingers were raised towards the newly appointed Proof Reader.

The Advertisement Manager called the Proof Reader in his office and gave him dressing down. He time and again questioned as how telephone number of the client found entry in that advertisement. The flummoxed Proof Reader knew he was at fault. He wanted to save his newly acquired job so he offered to write an apology letter and dutifully accepted the mistake and wrote an apology.

The said Proof Reader heaved a sigh of relief while emerging out of Advertisement Manager’s room. He thought he had saved his job and gleefully went to his desk.

The words spread. The editorial people also came to know about this incident as how a Proof Reader had apologized to Advertisement Manager. The News Editor was also informed about the act of editorial blasphemy. The Proof Reader was summoned again – this time in News Editor’s chamber. When he was going there almost two dozen eyes in editorial were staring at him with hatred and disgust as if saying he had belittled them before marketing people.

Now, the News Editor questioned him as how and why he had written an apology to Advertisement Manager. Why he had not consulted his editor or his seniors before writing apology? But the bigger question was why he trampled on the editorial pride in front of Advertisement Manager. The Proof Reader was speechless. The bombardment of words continued – left, right and centre.

What was the way out! Apologize for your demeaning act, was the order of News Editor. The Proof Reader agreed – and sat down writing an apology letter for writing apology letter.

(The incident was narrated by senior journalist Pradeep Mathur to Shachindra Sharma.)

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