Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: I wrote at length about a six-part miniseries that my wife and I watched on Crackle called The Final Tsars, in which I couldn’t be bothered to open an extra browser tab and verify the full name of the ruler at the heart of the story. The next morning, our first conversation after “Good morning” was a firm reminder that his official stage name was, in fact, “Czar Nicholas II”. MCC regrets the oversight and is sorry if any Russian historians were offended, but we don’t feel like editing the affected entry because it would undermine one of its underlying points and two of its jokes.
Andrea is absolutely an invaluable presence in my life for innumerable reasons, but among those is the fact that she’s my number one fan, my most loyal reader, my cutest cheerleader, my #1 commentator, my only proofreader, and my favorite tambourine player from the original cast of The Electric Company. And I’m not just saying that because, on most days, hers is the only feedback I receive.
Life isn’t easy for bloggers with small and/or extremely unresponsive audiences. When you’re bereft of constructive criticism and you have no reason to pay people to nitpick your self-published wares for you, it’s easy for mistakes to slip through. Pop-culture characters who happen to be writers make it look soooo easy because they’re surrounded with friends and coworkers who encourage them, take care of them, and make them look like the main characters they were always meant to be. Mary Tyler Moore had her editor Lou Gehrig. Lois and Clark had Jerry White. The newspaper staff from The Wire season 5 had Bubbles, though they cut out every single scene of him scribbling with a red pen all over their submissions. Classified ad salesman Peter Palmer had J. Jonas Johnson. Paul Sheldon had his second wife Annie Wilkes. Timothy Hutton in The Dark Half had Dark Timothy Hutton. Owen Meany in Marley and Me let the dog ghost-write his articles until he began winning too many awards and had to be eliminated. Writers need input, and the more fictional they are, the more input they get, because the writers who write those writers always make sure they’re surrounded with a dedicated and knowledgeable support system, which I hear is a nice thing to have.
We’re living in an era where misinformation is rampant, entire social cliques are based on lies, half the pundits are faking it, the very words of our 54th President are suspect, and the text of every random typist is treated as gospel by at least one fan out there, and that fan’s name is Stanley Spadowski. Factual accuracy is more important than ever. Whether you’ve designed your own GeoTowns website or you’re using a platform such as PressWords, it’s on you to get it right or look like a fool while everyone else screen-shots your mistakes and scores 5,000 retweets off them. If you can’t trust yourself to remember off the top of your head how many episodes of Space: 1999 guest-starred Steve Urkel, which ska band Mindy Kaling used to lead, what member of Sha Na Na was an American Idol judge, or the name of that one Walter Cronkite sitcom that ran for six seasons on Fox, you have to be willing to do the research and fact-check yourself. You can’t sit back and wait for the comments section to do all your heavy lifting, especially if you forgot to turn it back on after your last flame war.
So yeah, sometimes it sucks when you don’t realize you’ve made an error until after it’s been posted for hours and nobody said a thing. It’s like that time David Partridge had that birthday party where no one showed up, Or when good ol’ Chunky Brown lost his one millionth ballgame and his best friend Linux just laughed at him. Or in the Stranger Things season 5 finale when Dustin was totally ignored at the school dance and the only girl who said hi to him was a young Fran Drescher. Or when they knocked down the Berlin Wall in North Germany but no one showed up to watch because everyone realized it was made of Duplo blocks. When you write a winning piece, you’re hefted atop the crowd’s shoulders and paraded up into the Land of Ten Thousand Likes. When you accidentally typo a politician’s name as “Bernie Flanders”, you march alone down to the Internet Joke Graveyard to serve your sentence on the same cell block as Chewbacca Aunt and the We Rate Ducks dude.
So the Moral of the Story for the writer is: get it right or get out. The Moral of the Story for the reader is: if you see something, say something, but in a way that would make Mister Manners proud. Also, the next time you make an internet error on purpose, if you’re anyone but The Sensational Cyclops artist Gail Simone, you’re stealing my joke. Thank you.