LAST week I made the apparently unforgivable error of putting the letter T in a word in which it didn’t belong, changing it from plans to plants.

My heart sank when I saw the long string of comments mocking me and my skills on Facebook. I really should have learned by now to ignore spiteful comments from members of the public. However, there are times when I can’t help but take them to heart. This was one of those occasions.

These particular commenters were giving themselves a collective pat on the back for spotting my mistake, believing it highlighted their own intelligence, while proving I can’t spell, and therefore shouldn’t be a journalist.

But my error was clearly not a spelling mistake. It was simply a typo - something we all do from time to time. By pointing out my error in a mean way and using it as a reason to belittle me, only makes them look like bullies.

One particularly nasty commenter spitefully suggested that no wonder I can only get a job at the Gazette. Another had taken the trouble to screenshot the mistake and draw an arrow pointing to it. It’s saddening that she thought this to be a constructive use of her time.

Surely, a polite and friendly comment pointing out the mistake would have sufficed, and it could have been promptly changed, causing no offence. I could have even taken a bit of banter.

It was the comment about working for the Gazette which angered and hurt me the most. The Gazette reaches more people now than it has in its entire history but is written by a smaller team than ever before.

I am proud to work for my local paper, and I am proud to serve the community, uncovering stories that matter, which would otherwise never be in the public domain.

I wonder if the commenter who tried to shame me for working for a local paper looks down at others and makes disparaging comments about their job when she doesn’t consider it to be worthy. In her view, what constitutes a successful and valid career? How would she feel if I came into her place of work and made rude and offensive comments about her chosen career?

Whatever her views about my job as a local journalist, no one has the right, whether online or in person, to make derogatory remarks about me as a person. I can accept criticism. I regretted the error in my writing and was annoyed at myself for not spotting it. But the hateful attack on me as a journalist by a small minority of our readers can never be justified.

Basingstoke Gazette:

It is comments like this which often come from those who read content from the Gazette for free. They don’t pay for a subscription, they don’t buy the paper, yet they think they have a right to complain and moan when articles contain mistakes. They also choose to follow our Facebook page.

Local journalism cannot survive without local people getting behind it and paying to access it. Yes, some articles contain mistakes, and that is as frustrating for us as it is for our readers. But minor mistakes don’t mean we can’t do our jobs. They creep in from time to time because we are such a small team, writing hundreds of articles each week and doing our absolute best to serve the community, question authority, and bring you the news that matters.

Contrary to popular belief, we don’t have proofreaders. Sometimes, you can read an article over and over and still not spot a typo that might be glaringly obvious to someone else. Sometimes, you can have proofreaders and they don’t see the mistake either. I’ll never forget the time an article appeared in the paper about a group of walkers getting their willies out, or a footballer taking a sh*t at the goal!

When I started as a journalist, social media wasn’t used in the way it is now. There wasn’t the same platform for readers to criticise, comment, and judge us. Whilst I welcome the positives social media can bring in allowing you to have your say, I also regret the added anxiety and stress it brings to my job which didn’t exist in the same way before.

Perhaps, therefore, it is not my spelling which should be questioned in relation to my ability to do my job, but my sensitivity. Perhaps I need to develop a tougher skin and brush off hurtful comments. However, I believe my sensitivity makes me better at my job. I empathise with others’ experiences and try to tell their story as if it were my own. I feel people’s passion, anger, sadness, frustration, and sometimes joy. There are numerous times I have cried following an interview or lay awake at night worrying about an article. Does this mean I chose the wrong career? Arguably, it might show I chose the right one.

Thankfully, most of our readers are decent people, who are polite, respectful, understanding, and forgiving. They appreciate the positive contribution we make to Basingstoke, and recognise that this far outweighs the odd mistake in our articles. Sometimes, we even get a thank you, and we appreciate that more than anything.

But to the small minority who search through our stories for mistakes, using them as an excuse to be rude to us: please, think about your actions in the future. Think how you would feel if you were treated in this way by someone in your place of work. Behind the name on each story is a real human being, who has feelings just like you, and we don’t deserve such hatred.