Dear WordCount is a weekly advice column answering your questions about writing, blogging and running a freelance business. Got a question? Ask me at [email protected].
[Today’s question is adapted from a query posted on FreelanceSuccess.com, the members-only message board for freelance writers.]
A source for an article I wrote not long ago isn’t happy with how it turned out. Although I fact-checked certain facts with the source via email and the publication did its own fact-checking, the source says facts are wrong and the article is one-sided. They’re also disappointed with how their company appears, which is understandable because it was an unflattering portrait in some ways, but supported by my reporting. Should I tell my editor? I’ve never written for the publication before I don’t want to damage my relationship with them. On the other hand, I cover this company regularly and want to preserve that relationship too. — Anonymous
I’d definitely share this email with your editor. Here’s why:
1. Editors deal with sources, disgruntled and otherwise, all the time. Yours knows the standard operating procedure at her publication when a source isn’t happy with what’s written about them. Let her deal with it.
2. Your editor has a better insight into what went into fact-checking this story. You know what you had fact checked, but she knows what transpired once the story was in her hands. Maybe a fact checker called the source about the facts in question, and the source is using you to get back at the publication for printing what they see as detrimental information. Again, better to bring this up with your editor since she’s in a better position to know the whole story (pun intended).
3. There may be a history or pattern you don’t know about. This source may complain about everything the publication has ever written about them, but since it’s your first story, you wouldn’t know.
4. The publication can run the email as a letter to the editor. If they do, it gives the publication and you the opportunity to address the specific issues the source brought up in a public forum so readers can determine for themselves what happened, or who’s in the right.
Stay strong. If you are confident in your reporting and representation of the facts, you have nothing to worry about. And it won’t be the first time your editor has had to deal with this type of situation.