Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I was writing a filler story yesterday about an ordinance on porn shops coming into the town I cover. It was passed at the last Town Council meeting. Nothing spectacular. I needed a story and this was it.
I sat down, did my interviews and started writing. As a habit, I tend to write things pretty straight. News-y. Dry.
But the story was inherently funny. See, the ordinance allowed porn shops, but didn't allow them within like, 5 football fields of any church, school, playground or anywhere children congregate and a host of other places. My town ain't but so big. Probably is barely 5 football fields wide in some areas. So the Town Council, in passing this ordinance, had essentially created a red light district without creating a red light district while at the same time, discouraging porn shops from locating to the town.
Funny. To me at least.
I was telling the story to a friend of mine and he laughed. So when I started writing, I took a stab at my lede:
"The town council has passed an ordinance governing the creation of adult entertainment shops in town. But porn shop owners probably don't feel too welcome."
I wrote the rest of the story and went back to read it over. It was boring. How was this story that was literally gift wrapped comedy boring?
I let my friend read it. He told me to write it just as I'd told it to him. We talked some things through and without too much effort, came up with this for a lede:
"WEST WARWICK — If you want to open an “adult entertainment” business in town, you can do it.
Just be sure to keep it away from schools.
And funeral homes.
And any place that sells liquor.
And any other “adult” shops.
Other than that, come on in."
I chuckled. He chuckled. And I filed it. He wanted me to put porn shops in, but since the ordinance also governs any place with live nude entertainment and adult movie theatres, I figured porn store was an inaccurate term.
So I called Marty, the copy editor, to see if he got my story.
"I'm looking for it now," he says. The next thing I hear are chuckles coming from the other end of the phone. "This looks like fun. I've got it. I'll call you if I have any questions."
And that was it. Looking back, even though the story was a nothing story -- I'm really proud of it. Like, I'd use it as a clip, maybe. It was fun. And it shows that I do have a sense of humor. And that I'm thinking -- not just reporting mindlessly.
But mostly, I like the story because it reminded me that writing is fun. And that's part of the reason I became a journalist. Because I got to tell funny stories and meet cool people. And also, being funny isn't as hard as we think it is. Just stop thinking about it and the funny will come.
Today, I came into the office and asked my boss if she read my porn story. My coworker chimed in from across the room "I LOVED your lede!"
It made me smile.
Oh, and Marty put porno in the headline.