Why I hate granting extensions to students

deadlinesWhen was the last time you asked your boss for an extension on a project you were working on?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot the last two weeks, as many students have been asking me for extensions on their assignments. The excuses/reasons aren’t that compelling – usually, it’s because they can’t find a story to cover before the deadline.
And I have failed them: I have granted extensions this past week that I never would have. I don’t know why, I must have softened. But I promise you it won’t happen again (without tough extenuating circumstances, of course).
Because getting an extension from a university prof/instructor on an assignment is not real life. If you keep asking for extensions in the real world, you’re just snowballing your workload, you’re risking holding your team/company back (hello RIM), and quite frankly, you’re risking your reputation as a person who can deliver.
I’ve worked as an editor on a city desk in two major news organizations. I’ve had reporters come to me and tell me that they “just need one more day” to get the story. Usually this meant a major re-organization of content in a print product, but in the worst cases it also meant we got scooped by the competition.
It’s quite simple. This is a deadline-oriented business. Buying time is a cop out in journalism, and it’s safe to assume that while you’re enjoying the luxury of an extended deadline, someone else is out there writing your story up for the web.
I’m not a total hardass. A few years ago, a student came to tell me that his parent had died. I knew his parent was ill with cancer, and I told him to take as long as he needed for his schoolwork, if he couldn’t get to that week’s assignment we would work something out.
To the students who think if they just have another day or two they will be able to hand in the perfect assignment: you’re kidding yourselves. You’re just prolonging the inevitable.
So it stops here: no more extensions. It’s time to get organized. A deadline is a deadline, especially in journalism. It’s time to show some self-discipline.
When you begin your careers in the professional world, you will thank me for this.
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