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Monday, May 18, 2009

Monsignor and Me-i

In time I will be blogging about subjects other than things from the past but as you may understand, when you have 40-plus years of work to think about there is plenty to remember. Not all of it is good not everything is bad. There are things that even now I wish I had done differently. I could be of course speaking for just about everybody and not just myself.
There is an element of pride in remembering where I was at a certain point in time and how I reacted to things. But there is also a distinctive touch of humility that comes with it.
Allow me please to explain.
Just a glance to the reprint of the interview with monsignor Romero, that you can see in my previous post, shows a number of mistakes that I have regreted since the original time of publication. The opening sentence: "Cualquier persona que conozca..." I would have liked to substitute for: "Cualquiera que conozca..." To say the least.
And just immediately after, beginning the second graph, there is also another glaring mistake that basically made me cringe when I first read it: "Y es que no hay motivo..." I wrote. My mother, who taught me a lot about writing, was certainly not responsible for that one.
At the time of reprint, I could very well have asked that some of the mistakes I had noticed were amended. I can honestly tell you this: the thought never entered my mind. Then, as now, the pride is not enough I hope to make me vain. In short, neither the clippings nor my present writing am I offering as perfection. This is me, then, warts and all.
You will naturally look at pictures from years past. An "I was there" kind of statement, should the reproduction of newspaper clippings not be enough to convince you. The pix on the right is one of those. I am at the foot of the stairs with three other Salvadoran journalists on our way to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. It was the first flight from El Salvador to the neighboring nation since 1969, when both countries fought in what came to be known as the "soccer war".
Newspapering, journalism in general, abounds in examples of not too careful writing.
On ocassions, specially when working for a wire service, where your story has to be ready for transmission before the competition can send theirs, the rush to beat them sometimes compounds the mistakes. Your goal is to get the facts straight, get them fast, and put them out the fastest with no mistakes —or as few mistakes as possible.
As we all know, that doesn't always happen. The dispatch reproduced at top left is but another example: to the writing mistakes in the original story, as published on Wednesday 26 March, 1980, in the Mexican daily Excelsior, you can also add the repetition of a phrase at the end of graphs 13, 14, and 15. Whether it was me, my editors, or the typesetters at Excelsior that made the mistake, no one can now tell.
Mind you, the way you wrote your story and filed it from a Thirld World country in turmoil like El Salvador was not specially conducive to perfection. You composed and edited your story on humongous machines whose keyboard you banged with all the strenght your fingers could muster if you wanted to put out an "idiot tape" that would give you a five-by-five readout.

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