There are plenty of opportunities to criticize a concrete contractor. If you make a mistake on a job, it is literally cast in stone for everyone to see. It's oh-so-easy for anyone who's ever watched a ready-mix truck drive by to be an expert in retrospect. And that out-of-town consultant that the owner hired is so much smarter than you, regardless of how much experience you have. You might as well not bother to explain your side of the story.
Sometimes I feel the same way about our work on the magazine. We don't always get everything exactly right. And with somewhere in the range of 20,000 words in each issue, there are always going to be at least a couple of those words with which somebody somewhere disagrees.
I find that every criticism, however, whether it's a real mistake on our part or just a difference of opinion, teaches me something I didn't know or opens my eyes to a viewpoint I wouldn't have seen. For example, in our January issue, Tom Klemens, CC's senior editor, wrote an article on specifying concrete. Terry Holland is right about the incredible attributes modern admixtures bring to the mix (see Reader Response). Creating a mix today without that benefit is as unthinkable as writing this editorial on a typewriter. I see that much more clearly now that the truck's driven by.
Then we learned that some contractors were upset over Joe Nasvik's article (also in the January issue) on finishing lightweight concrete. Apparently Jack Gibbons' contention that finishing lightweight air-entrained concrete too early can compact the surface and lead to delamination seemed to be laying the blame at the feet of the contractor—certainly not our intent.
I tell our staff that while I don't want them to make a mistake, if it's an honest mistake, I don't mind. What I don't want is to see the same mistake a second time. Figure out what went wrong and correct it. But, the two examples from our January issue remind me of a lesson I've had to learn over and over: listening to one person's viewpoint, even if that person is widely considered an expert, does not always give you the full story. Intelligent people can differ, and our job as journalists is to try to give you the whole story.
So the next time you make a mistake on a job, write and tell me about it. And the next time we make a mistake in the magazine, tell me about that, too. When we stop making mistakes, that will mean we've stopped trying, and I don't plan on doing that for a very long time.
William D. Palmer Jr.
Editor in Chief