When good stories go bad

I wanted to get this blog post out here before I leave the Tracy Press on

Picture is somewhat unrelated

Friday. That and I’ve got a savage case of writer’s block I’m trying to work through.

It’s about a story I got really excited to write, but one that didn’t quite turn out the way I’d hoped. I at least got to scare my mom on Facebook, which made the venture somewhat worthwhile, I guess.

On November 13, I received an interesting e-mail:

I wanted to know, would be possible to post my marriage proposal in the Tracy Press? I’m looking for a creative way to ask my girlfriend of 11 years. Thank you for any help that you may be able to offer me.

Now, in the Our Town section, we usually print engagements, weddings and births. I had never really thought about an actual wedding proposal. My first inclination was to just push the e-mail to someone in our ads department and he can get through to his girlfriend that way. I replied telling him that he probably would have to place an ad, but that I’d see if there’s anything I could do.

Then I forwarded the message to Kelsy, our copy chief.  That’s when the ideas started to flow. We both got pretty excited and we wanted to make this an epic story that he and his hopefully soon-to-be-fiancée would never forget.

Kelsy and I agreed to meet him at Barista’s, the coffee shop across the street from the Press, to talk about what we would do. Aside from exchanging a few e-mails with the guy, I didn’t know a lot about him, so in the day or so leading up to our meeting Kelsy and I started to write a story for him, hoping it was something page-turning and tear-dropping.

We decided to make him the spotlight feature for one of the first Wednesdays in December. I would write the story so the proposal came out of nowhere and at the end. A challenge for me, but something I knew I could do.

Kelsy and I interviewed the guy, a 33-year-old Tracy man who met his girlfriend at work. They seemed like a cute couple. Both had a child from a previous relationship and he said they were already like a tight-knit family. He kept saying how special she was to him, but how he couldn’t really afford to give her a proper wedding until now.

We walked away from the interview fairly impressed and excited for the upcoming story writing process. We were going to have our photographer, Glenn, shoot a picture of him later that week, with the ring hidden. I was going to write a feature about him as a dad who worked relentlessly to make sure his kids never went without, then pop the question at the end of the story. Online, we were going to set up a slideshow with the story, with the final picture being one of him on bended knee with the ring in his hand.

That’s how she was going to find out and he planned to record her reaction. All3 of us had great vibes coming from this, feeling that we were going to be a part of something special.

Although, Kelsy did tell me going into this story that a few years ago, a man proposed to his girlfriend through the Tracy Press and he was turned down. So I had that in the back of my mind.

I got another e-mail from him on Nov. 23 saying his father’s cancer came back and he didn’t think it’d be a prudent time to pop the question just yet, with his dad’s health in jeopardy. He wanted to push it back to sometime around Valentine’s Day (which would’ve worked perfectly) but I told him that I planned to leave on Jan. 8. I said I can write it up before I depart and it can be in the can for whenever.

Then comes the heartbreaking e-mail on Dec. 2:

Justin,

I just want to say that I’m very sorry I wasted your time with this.
I just found out last night that the love of my life has been cheating on me for the past few months.

Wow. That was a huge bombshell to drop and I really felt bad for the guy. Talking with him at Barista’s, his love seemed pure. I was really rooting for him (something I know I’m not really supposed to do in journalism, but oh well). He said in the e-mail that in their 11-year relationship, he stayed faithful and never beat her, never yelled at her, never purposefully did anything to hurt her. I felt bad that he had this all planned, we had this all planned, and now it became a sad story. I really felt for the guy because I’m pretty sure I’m a romantic at heart, too.

I hope that wherever he is now, things have gotten better.

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2 thoughts on “When good stories go bad

  1. WOW! You had me really interested in how this was all going to turn out, and I never expected THAT! That really sucks. Poor guy. What a waste of 11 years … I hope his life turns around.

    Also, I had to add that I think it’s funny your photographer’s name is Glen (Connelly) and your copy chief’s name is Kelsy (Fox). Hehe.

  2. Justin:
    Great story none-the-less. Not all romances have a happy ending, but the getting there is the most important part.

    You are a romantic. You can tell in your writing that you do not keep a wall between yourself and your story.

    Hard on you, but makes good writing.

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