In the February 2009 issue of GEM, we ran an article titled “Using their Heads” submitted by Ben Romich. It was a short piece about how Ben and his neighbor, Elmer Sherwin, restored an old headless Fairbanks-Morse and made some creative modifications along the way.
|Elmer Sherwin, who helped Ben Romich restore the Fairbanks-Morse engine featured in the February 2009 issue of GEM.|
In the process of editing that story, we inadvertently changed the meaning of a few of Ben’s sentences, and cut a few more for length. At the time, we were trying to fit the story and photos on one page and save what we thought were the important details. Instead, we ended up omitting details that Ben found important, such as the few lines giving public credit to Don Irvin for giving him the gas engine “bug.” Needless to say, Ben was disappointed and embarrassed when he read his article in the magazine. And most of the time, the story ends there without us knowing we made a mistake.
But thankfully, Ben sent us a letter expressing his disappointment and asked us to take his letter as constructive criticism. He pointed out our editing mistakes and suggested that we include a guide to contributors for readers to consult before submitting articles. This is a great idea that we’re going to work on and implement in the next couple issues.
Ben’s letter also motivated all of us here at GEM to reevaluate our approach to editing your articles. As editors and writers ourselves, there’s a delicate balance required when you read someone else’s work. Any edits we make to an story are solely intended to help make the article understood by all of our readers. The truth, though, is everyone has a unique voice when they write and sometimes, we don’t realize that we’re making changes to articles simply because we prefer different words or phrasing. It’s never intentional or malicious, but it does happen.
I also mentioned in the February issue that we’re encouraging all submissions large and small and your response to that request has been outstanding – keep ’em coming! You’ll notice in this issue that five of the stories are reader submitted and we’ve got a growing list of stories ready to run in future issues. And with Ben in mind, please know that if you submit an article and we need to make significant changes, we’ll be consulting you first, so please make sure to include your e-mail address or phone number with your submission.
Finally, we apologize for our mistake, Ben. Happy 89th birthday, and thanks for helping us make GEM the best it can be.