Service of Double Checking

July 19th, 2010

Categories: Cost Cuts, Double Checking, Failure, Information

I improve what I’ve written every time I reread the copy but there’s a limit to how much time I can spend on a project as nobody will pay for unlimited hours to edit and rewrite. Under ideal circumstances, I like an hour to pass before picking up and reviewing copy–overnight is even better. If in a severe time crunch and the copy is more than a memo, I ask another writer/editor to review it.  Being clear and error-free matters.

[I digress, but have you read books by some well regarded contemporary authors lately? It appears that nobody, not even their Aunt Sadie, an editor or even the author has read the book cover to cover before it goes to press looking, at the least, for facts repeated a few pages apart.]

I don’t bash brands on this blog, but the instances to which I refer are so widely known that I am making an exception.

I wonder what was going through Steve Jobs and the Apple tech team’s minds to put a flawed phone on the market when someone had to know the antenna would give trouble. Just as poor copy won’t kill anyone, [unless you are writing dosage and side effect information for potentially lethal meds or assembly instructions for parachutes or bombs], an imperfect phone won’t either [except if the caller is dialing 911 for help and touches the antenna on the rim, which causes a dropped call.]

This lack of double checking [or ignoring the results of someone who has] seems to be communicable. Where was it going on at BP before crews sank a pipe in water far deeper than standard? And now that the horse is out of the barn-or rather, the Lockerbie bomber is out of jail and back home in the lap of luxury–we find out that he isn’t as sick as the judge thought/was told and he may live another 10+ years. [Apart from nobody checking the doctor’s prognosis, since when should we care so much about the final days of a killer like this? But that’s another subject.]

At the same time as some think of serious double-checking as a waste of time, we have reporters postulating where Chelsea Clinton’s wedding will be. TV reporters are stalking passersby in Rhinebeck, New York to gauge whether locals think the wedding will take place there or, as Erica Orden in The Wall Street Journal wrote on Friday in “Rhinebeck Conspiracy Theory,” when she quoted a resident police officer, “My wife thinks this is a decoy location….” On Sunday, in the Style section, The New York Times had its own, slightly different version of guessing the where and when.

Do you think that we should apply the sharp brains being wasted on this fluff to double check what’s going on in so many crucial areas such as finance and the war, or do we need the frivolity to survive the consequences caused by the rampant lack of double checking, even by some in the media, our traditional watchdogs?

6 Responses to “Service of Double Checking”

  1. Stanley G. Said:

    In theory I agree with you about double checking, however, writing that is over edited is a little like the perfect soft boiled egg that is over checked. Once that’s happened, you’re better off cooking it a little more, crumbling its yellow and white components and serving it, along with chopped onion, lemon and crust-less toast, with first class Persian caviar!

    As to Apple’s blunder, maybe the Apple exec’s realized that all these portable telephones/computers are a little like the hula hoop… here today, gone tomorrow… and wanted to get as many sales under their belt before the public woke up?

    As to BP, maybe the fault is structural? Maybe BP subcontracted the work out to a Chaney influenced subcontractor, Transoceanic, and lost control?

    As to the Lockerby bomber, it was worth Libya’s while to make concessions to get him free. If they hadn’t, how could Col. Quadafi have persuaded more Libyans to blow up more airplanes? Bombers, too, need reassurance that they’ll be taken care of.

    As to Slick Willie and Hillary’s kid, who cares?

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’m lost in the caviar and egg….However I do understand what you mean by taking the personality out of writing which a bad editor will do. Can’t double check facts enough times in my book. I’ve seen the results of incorrect information picked up and used for years because of one sloppy bit of research and writing. Bet fact checkers no longer have jobs at most magazines that had them at one time.

    Intersting point about Apple and its products being a fad. Hmmm.

    Your tongue is in your cheek for the rest….where mine will stay in response.

  3. Stanley G. Said:

    In the interest of saving the lost, which all good men and women do (except, it seems, those in Congress!), I’ll explain about the egg. The time it takes to check a boiling egg that you want properly soft boiled, over boils it. Therefore if you are a “checker,” you’d better hard boil it, crunch up the yoke and white and eat the world’s best caviar using the egg to supplement its flavor.

    Incidentally, I agree with you completely about fact checking. And my tongue was not cheeking in my comments about BP and Libya.

    Eat well! I like to, despite my doctor’s pleading. I enjoy your blog, Jeanne.

  4. Lucrezia Said:

    Double checking has its place. The act of going over every little thing, regardless of importance, is not only impractical, but borders on paranoid behavior.

    I teetered on that edge when it came to making sure an apartment door was double locked. Tiring of frequent trips back upstairs upon reaching the street, I trained myself to “stare” at the double locking action. This also works when it comes to other minutiae. It saves hours.

    Editing is not an act of double checking, but one of sharpening a piece by eliminating clutter. One double checks the accuracy of content.

    As to the disasters named above, no one with half a brain believed the Lockerby murderer was let off through “compassion.” The act was a criminal one, and required detective work.

    The I-phone blunder could have been avoided by decent research, or double check. The “here today & gone tomorrow” attitude is not appropriate for so costly a toy. Apples contempt of its clientele is all too clear, and why shouldn’t it be considering the millions of dopes lining up as early as 4:00 a.m. to make a purchase?

    The BP disaster requires more knowledge than 99% of those have who have already cast judgment. Much appears to resemble the Apple stance: Contempt of the public, a highly infectious disease among corporations.

    Diligence and pride of work are key. If these assets were conscientiously employed, the “double check” would take care of itself.

  5. Martha Takayama Said:

    I am a firm believer in the need for editing and double checking.

    However, I could not have imagined the additional timeliness and significance–in addition to the globally significant issues which demonstrate examples of suffering neglect, indifference, carelessness, and inexcusable ignorance you cited–that this post would assume after yesterday’s “news”..

    The United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, without any substantive information and in a fashion that predates any and all labor legislation dating back to at least the past century, imperiously misused his authority to summarily fire a civil servant with an urgency normally reserved for 911 calls. The details of his reasoning, or the White House and it staff’s reasoning, are supremely irrelevant. They did not know what they were doing! It would have behooved them to go through at least the most rudimentary of double or fact-checking before acting in this dictatorial fashion.

    At this point, due to lack of “double checking,” it would seem that a number of other officials should be relieved of their respective positions, starting with Mr. Vilsack.

    The gravest part of this incident is that it reflects the behavior of a society governed by non-facts, preoccupied with nonsense while global disasters drag on with no resolution in sight! We had best double check our priorities!

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    The lock situation is as much a good example of double checking as it is of focusing when performing automatic actions –such as swallowing a daily vitamin or meds. After work, I find a loose vitamin I usually take with breakfast hidden in the paisley pattern of a tablemat. It’s easy enough to swipe my hand over the mat to [double] check…but I don’t always.

    I just thought of a solution to the automatic lock focus issue: Put the keys in a different place in backpack or purse once you’ve locked the door. If it’s not there, then upstairs you go!

    Martha–you hit the crux: Double check our priorities. Perfect.

    Stanley: Pass the salt. On the other hand, forget it. Caviar is salty.

Leave a Reply