commentisfree asking for someone to write, in a hurry, about the experience of being a grandparent. It was already 11am, and the deadline was 1pm. Great, I thought, I like a challenge - and I qualified on the grandparenting side. So after my coffee I set to, and duly dispatched the required 250 words. (I think I maybe wrote 252 words)
Back came a mail saying they'd use it. I'd seen the online tale about Gwyneth Paltrow badmouthing her grandma; I expected to see my stuff online. A phone call later in the afternoon, however, told me it'd be in the paper as well, so I duly bought one of Dunoon's limited stock of guardians the following morning.
To put it briefly, my piece was crap. It had been edited out of all recognition, into a jaggedly unimaginative lump devoid of paragraphs ( I know - space restrictions) with the sequencing altered and so drastically cut that it didn't actually make sense. They didn't even get my "comment is free" name right. Someone who knows me well said it didn't sound like me at all, and I was glad to hear this. I gave heartfelt thanks that usually I write only for myself, and that our local paper treats what I write with respect. I know newspapers have to consider column inches and that once a paper's out that's it - it can't be changed - but I had never really considered the implications for print journalists.
Thing is, I'm not a print journalist. I'm not a journalist at all. Putting that castrated rubbish in the paper makes it look as if "amateurs" can't write to save themselves, and makes this "amateur" determined that she won't do anything so silly again. But if they're going to invite submissions, the Guardian needs to think about what they're doing.
To balance all this, I have to report that when the online version appeared - and you can read it here - it was more or less what I had written, and - better still - the mistakes I pointed out to @commentisfree Jessica were immediately remedied. Maybe this happens every time anyone writes for print media - and maybe that's why I'm becoming such a fan of online reporting.
But there's still something nice about seeing it in print ...