Writing a three-a-week post for the public isn’t as easy as you’d think. Although it’s an awesome job, it’s really hard to hit on things that are interesting every single time. I, personally, find the life cycle of a Luna moth incredibly interesting, but I’m pretty sure if I wrote an entire post about it, no one would read it.
As a writer for a mostly web-based audience, I have about three seconds to get the reader interested in what I’m saying, and from there I’ve got maybe a minute and a half of their attention. And it’s a proven fact if the story doesn’t have a picture with it, it has a much lower chance of being viewed at all. As a matter of fact, I think a great deal of people actually just look at the picture and skim lightly over the articles. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Skim away, but please read the entire article if something you skim over catches your attention enough to want to comment about it. Mostly, because I have a very hard time staying on point, and the thing that caught your attention is probably something I said or thought that has absolutely nothing to do with the article.
I’m always looking for things I think might interest Overdrive readers. Just the other day, as we were heading North on I-75, I noticed a brand-new truck stop right outside of Vandalia, Ohio. The reason I noticed is because that’s home area for us, and home area has been completely bereft of places to park for a really long time. I-75 from Cincinnati to Vandalia was pretty slim when it came to places to fuel and get a big truck in and out. I was really excited, told George I was going to have to do a story on it, because if it’s right here in our home area and we never knew about it, I’d bet a lot of other people didn’t know, either.
We didn’t have time to stop, so I called the store to get some info about how long they had been open. I told the manager we’d be back through in a few days and I’d like to stop in and take some pictures for an article. You’d think I told him I was planning on parking a Panzer tank in front of the store, fully armed with the cannon pointing directly at his head.
“Oh no ma’am! We can’t let you take pictures. You also can’t talk to the staff for an article without permission from the legal department.”
“No. We can’t let you take pictures without a wavier signed from the legal department.”
“You have got to be kidding me. Are there National secrets embedded in your bathroom walls, or what?”
“I don’t know what the walls are made of, ma’am, but I can get you the number to corporate.”
Oh joy. Corporate. Where tiny animals are stripped of their eyelids on a daily basis. Corporate. Where dreams go to die. Corporate. Where if they haven’t had seventy-two meetings and at least three phone conferences about it, it doesn’t exist. Corporate is where God will insert the hose when he decides to give this Earth an enema.
But I love my job and I care about my readers,and they guy was so nice I couldn’t be rude, so I took the number and called their dreaded Corporate. I spoke with a very nice lady who was all about me doing an article on their newest store, and would e-mail the necessary forms for me to fill out to do so. That was 10 days ago. I’ve e-mailed her three times, and each time I’ve gotten a very nice e-mail back, promising me she’ll send the necessary permits for me to walk in the store with a camera. I neglected to ask for a permit to speak to any employees, so I guess if I ever see the actual paper I’m supposed to have to take pictures of the place, that’s all there will be for the story.
So here it is in a nutshell. There’s a new truck stop on I-75 at the Vandalia exit in Ohio. I don’t know anything else about it, apparently it’s a huge secret that must be guarded with permits and necessary forms, so the bathrooms have to be nothing short of spectacular. Don’t speak to the employees, though, unless you have the proper documentation.
Now I’m not naïve, I know why they want all this legal mumbo jumbo. They’re afraid I’m going to make them look silly or something. Because it’s not silly at all to insist on legal documents being signed before doing a story that pretty much gives them free advertisement in a national publication. There’s’ nothing silly about that, and if you don’t believe me you can read it for yourself on the wavier I’m having you sign to read my articles from now on. We all have to protect ourselves, you know.
Addendum: Of course, three minutes after I finished writing this, I got the e-mail with the forms I needed to go ahead with the story. I also received a personal phone call from the very nice corporate lady, apologizing for the hold-up. I’d like very much to add that the silliness revolving around signed forms and legal documents isn’t her fault, and is not unique to this company — you should see what I’m going to have to go through to be able to do a story about how the game fish display of a sporting goods company is moved. I think I may have to offer up a sacrificial lamb on the Vernal Equinox and participate in at least one Black Mass, but I’ll get the story, you wait and see.