I publish two very small weekly newspapers. That’s my day job.
I got into the newspaper business 14.5 years ago because I love to write and because I wanted to be my own boss. Owning newspapers gave me the opportunity to do both.
I don’t do a lot of writing for the papers anymore. Once in a while, I crank out an editorial, and even more rarely, I’ll write an article. Fortunately, there are reporters who do the latter.
I thought it would be fun to share an article with you that I wrote, which ran in April, 2004, just to give you a taste of my journalistic writing style. I’ve changed names to protect the innocent and to maintain anonymity as much as possible.
I-5 to be routed through Pierce
In a press release dated today (April 1), ODOT (Oregon Department of Transportation) announced its intention to reroute Interstate 5 through Pierce proper. The change would follow the old Pacific Highway from the area of Exit 812 until it reconnects with the current freeway north of town.
An ODOT official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the reasoning behind the proposed change was twofold: safety and economics.
“Let’s face it. There are a lot of accidents in that area,” said the official, “and something needs to be done. According to our records, the number of accidents before 1942 (when I-5 was completed) was significantly lower than it is now. Those kinds of statistics are hard to ignore.”
Since the old highway still exists, the cost of engineering and updating the nearly eight-mile stretch would be minimal.
The official also said those same records indicate that when the I-5 corridor was originally discussed, there was a strong movement to do what ODOT is planning now.
“They finally opted for a more or less direct shot from Medford to Portland,” the official said. “The thought was that direct would be safer. Also, there were some who were concerned Pierce might become more than a bedroom community.”
“I think time has proven the fallacy of both of those premises,” the official added.
A public hearing, required by state law, is currently scheduled for Feb. 29, 2005. Barring any unforeseen opposition, the rerouting of I-5 through Pierce could take place as early as January, 2007.
“We’ll have to add enough material to expand the existing infrastructure to accommodate four lanes and a median,” said the official. “Also, we’ll have to deal with the (Heritage) bridge. We might have to blow it up.”
Pierce Mayor, Robert Thompson, in a phone interview held yesterday, said it was the first he or the Council had heard of any plans to officially reroute I-5.
“Something like this definitely needs to be discussed,” he said.
“Whenever there’s an accident, where does the freeway traffic naturally go?” asked the ODOT official. “Through Pierce. We cut down on the crashes and we go with people’s natural tendencies. It’s the ultimate win-win solution.”
Okay, the article is fairly cut and dry, with the emphasis on dry. Not a whole lot of excitement going on, but you can see my reporting style and that it sticks to the facts.
I should probably add that it’s not that exciting of an article, unless you live in “Pierce.” A change of this magnitude to any small rural town, regardless of location, would cause quite a stir.
And, it did.
Except, it wasn’t true. Not a lick of it.
As far as I know, there were never any plans to reroute the Interstate through town. I never spoke with the anonymous ODOT official, and everything else was made up, too.
Yet, this story, along with a few other fabricated articles, ran on the front page of my newspaper.
Why would I do such a thing? How am I still in business? Well, it was our first ever April Fools’ issue. In the years I’ve owned the papers, we’ve done only two, the latest occurring in 2010. I’m not a great fan of April Fools’ Day, but we’ve gotten great responses each time, so it’s hard to resist.
Why the gap between April Fools’ editions? The papers are weeklies, and we publish on Thursdays. Since I’m not THAT into it, I wait until April 1 lands on a Thursday. As it so happens, because 2016 is a leap year, April 1 won’t be on a Thursday again until 2021.
Plenty of time for people to forget. Heh heh.
THE REAL DEAL
Hopefully, you’re chuckling a little, but you’re also probably wondering what the real reason behind all of this is, since the article is fake. It’s certainly not April Fools’ Day now. And, just like our newspaper readers, I don’t intend to offend you.
Well, as I said earlier, I did want to give you an idea of my writing abilities, though not necessarily the journalistic style that I referred to above. Rather, I wanted you to have a sample of what it would be like if you were reading my debut novel, The Foolish and the Weak, the first book in the Age of Restoration series.
No, I’m not saying it’s dry or boring. Those of you who have read my novel, hopefully, will know what I’m talking about.
Suffice it to say, things aren’t always as they seem, no matter how cut and dry they appear to be.
One last point. While novels dabble to a varying degree in the facts, the reader needs to be sucked into the world an author creates and remain immersed. In the case of fiction based in our day, that means supplying some reality. We don’t want the reader questioning the validity or plausibility of what we write, unless that’s the underlying reason. To question reality.