I often marvel at the pace of the the news industry. Across the country, reporters work on weekly or even daily schedules to produce newsworthy copy for people to consume via their local papers or favorite website. These writers go out, cover events and come back with fresh stories to report. The sense of urgency comes from the imposed deadline of whatever media outlet they work for, yet, often, readers never understand or feel the pressure of a media outlet’s deadline.

In fact, the idea of the deadline is so engraved in the system that it’s not even spoken of, it just persists and everyone knows it. When you start working for a media outlet you are told what the deadline is, if you don’t know already, and that’s it. No more mention of it unless you’re up against it or have missed it.

Everyone has missed a deadline at least once. If you meet a journalist who claims to have never missed a deadline, they are lying. Missed deadlines are a part of the business. Sometimes a contact doesn’t get back to you on time, or you miss the window to ask someone important questions related to the story you’re writing. Sometimes people just don’t want to talk to you.

When you’re working and you miss a deadline, consequences can vary. If it’s a one-time thing because of something that was out of your control, it’s probably not much of an issue. I once had a source ask me when my deadline was. He was also in the media industry–I should have known something was up. After that initial phone conversation, my source was “unavailable” until after my deadline passed.

If missing deadlines is a pattern, you might get fired. I think the worst consequence is the subsequent hit your reporting reputation takes. It’s hard to find work if people don’t think you’re reliable.

Even here at Phreelance Writers we adhere to a deadline policy. It’s completely unspoken and unwritten but because Gage and I both have backgrounds in journalism, it follows us. However, problems sometimes arise when we have guest contributors who don’t come from a journalism background.

We try to be polite about it, let our guest contributors know how we operate, but sometimes you have to be a stickler. I’ve come to realize that part of writing for a blog is also editing for a blog and being an editor for a blog. It makes for awkward conversations with our contributors, who are also our friends.  Something sort of like this:

Me: Hey, so you said you’d have an entry for the blog today. Have you emailed it to me yet?

Contributor: Oh man, I didn’t finish it. But I’ll have it done later though, no worries, right?

Me: Well, actually, we like to have something new posted everyday by a certain time, which was an hour ago, so…

Contributor: My bad. I just forgot.

Me: Yeah, well get it to me as soon as possible.

Contributor: OK, no need to be jerk about it.

Me: Right…

You get the picture. How do you raise the issue of a missed deadline when there is no real repercussion? We can’t fire someone who’s doing us a favor… Also, we don’t pay them!

I’d love to make the statement that I’ll never miss a deadline again. But that would be akin to saying that I’m never going to fall asleep again. Some things are just going to happen. All I ask is that you bear with me. I promise it won’t be a regular occurrence.

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