(An epic about the sad little people who take precious oxygen from the rest of us)
Of course, that was before my experience with a guy who shall heretofore be known as “The Ghoul” and how said experience is testing my resolve at engaging (not engaging?) with crazy people. Because Lawd hep me, this guy is asking for a purple nurple of the nth degree. (Yes, my doctor did ply me full of samples to stave off what would’ve been my 19th nervous breakdown, thanks for asking.)
How I got hooked up with this jackass is irrelevant for our purposes, but the jist is I did a story on him and his fledgling company. If only I’d listened to my instincts about him, I may have been able to avert the following nonsense: You know how a person generally discovers all they need to know about someone else within the first 15 minutes of meeting them? The Ghoul, who’d placed dead last in a business competition—no doubt because of his sparkling personality, as you’ll see—was “pulling an Oscar” or whatever the term is for people who have to pretend they’ve lost gracefully. The fact that he looks like this except with mottled olive skin, mousy brown hair, no beard and both of his jug ears didn’t help his cause; think crypt keeper in a moderately priced suit, and you get the idea. Anyway, I spent about an hour with The Ghoul at a local chain bookstore listening to his shtick; he bought me a coffee and we went on our way, but not before he asked me if he can see the story before it’s published. Now, any self-respecting reporter knows that any legitimate publication doesn’t allow a subject’s prior approval on a story, but because the guy was sooooo freakin’ uptight, I told him I would send him the story after I filed it and then I would make changes only if there were factual errors.
Well, a few weeks pass between the interview and the story running, and in that time, The Ghoul must’ve called me at least once a week to find out when the story was running, which, you know, fine, but don’t expect me to pick up every time you call only to tell you that no, I don’t know when the fucking pub date is going to be, all right? But I file the story and then send it to him as promised. Of course he was all sunshine and puppies—his exact words were, “It’s real good”—but he of course had some changes, which he put in red for me in a return copy. One of those changes was to take out the name of the company that makes the product he’s trying to license. I didn’t understand why that would be an issue because the company does indeed make the product, so I left it in.
After the jump, you’ll see how it all goes terribly, terribly wrong.
I’m going to preface this by saying that all that needed to happen was for The Ghoul to say that there had been a mistake in the article, and a correction would be run. That IS in fact what happened. But this is how The Ghoul took matters into his own hands:
I am dissatisfied with your inability to contact me regarding the minor changes. [Product maker] somehow got the article before I actually did. They called me today and asked why they were mentioned as having an agreement with [Ghoul’s company].
I never ever said this to you! I mentioned that the product was a [product maker] creation. You misunderstood what was said. I explained to you that I was in the process of securing other distribution, licensing, direct-sales and joint-venture agreements to bring [the crux of Ghoul’s business] to [target market]. This would include the [product] as well. It must be noted that [Ghoul’s company’s] focus is on the [product] for [target market]. We are going to test the chemistry with permission from [product] and [another company].
At no time did I say specifically that I had an agreement with [product maker]! I did mention that I had an agreement with [another company] for aftercare applications using [product]. I never even said that I had an agreement with [product] either. You obviously took things out of context and misquoted me.
Please forward this to your legal department.[emphasis mine] If I ever ended up in court, I am confident that these email communications to you and the word attachment would show that I made an effort to correct the problem well before the publishing of the article. I even left voice mail for you to contact me about minor corrections. I was aware of the fact that no big changes would be allowed for fear of compromising the article’s tone. But, I did ask you to remove [product maker] from the article on February 28th 2006 via email. Please see attachments.
P.S. It seems unlikely that legal action will be taken, but, be advised that Dow Corning is a big company with a great legal team. I am just making you aware of the situation.
See, now as I’ve said a million times before, I have no problem admitting when I’m wrong, especially when it comes to my stories; I tell subjects CONSTANTLY to give me feedback and let me know when I’ve misunderstood something. But like all things, the tone in your delivery is important, and bringing up legal action for a simple correction is a surefire way to get me to come out with barrels. Put another way, Ghoul didn’t get the apology he was waiting for:
I’ve already spoken to [redacted], the editor you called about this, and she said that a correction will be run based on what I’ve highlighted in red below. If what I have highlighted is incorrect, you’ll need to take it up with either her or [redacted].
In the meantime, what I told you about your seeing the story prior to print is that [the paper] DOES NOT allow it, but that as a courtesy—one that I distinctly remember telling you I’m not supposed to give—I would send it to you only after I filed it with my editor and that I would change only facts that were incorrect. Well, [product] being [made by product maker] is NOT incorrect, so in my mind, there was no reason for me to remove any reference to it. As for misinterpreting what you said about the licensing, you DID NOT specify any misinterpretation; all you said in your e-mail was, “Please remove [product maker] also,” and I’ll be happy to forward those e-mails to my editors as well if they’d care to see them. But had you been specific, I would’ve been more than happy to correct it.
Going forward, I respectfully offer that if you want complete control over anything published about [Ghoul’s company] in [the paper] or any other publication in the known universe, you need to purchase an ad.
Unhappy with my response, Ghoul kicked his ire up a notch:
This was in the first attachment in red and is what was said originally: Then in February 2004, he formed [Ghoul’s company] as well as secured distribution, licensing direct-sales and joint-venture agreements to bring [product] to [target market]. Attached is the document that you received Thu, 1 Mar 2007 08:09:58 -0800 (PST).
If you answered your email, or bothered to answer your phone, this all could have been easily communicated. I tried professionally to convey my minor concerns. Just because you feel that you are doing me a favor, does not mean that you should ignore my requests. I was grateful for your time. But, you did not look at the attachment that was sent on March 1st. I am correct in that I asked you to omit [product maker] with regard to an agreement, not about the [product] being a [product maker] creation. I have proof that I sent minor corrections with those being posted in red. You did mention that I could change something if it did not compromise the article as a whole. Sorry, but, you are wrong.[ED: And YOU can’t punctuate your way out of paper bag.]
The bottom line is that you do not care, nor did you care about doing things right. I communicated nicely to you and showed professionalism. My email today was an attempt to show you want [sic] I was trying to say at borders and my disappointment.
Going forward, I respectfully offer that if you want to be a better interviewer, you need to listen and write verbatim what is being said. You came to me, I did not go to you!
So I looked at the attachment he sent and compared it with my original, and lo and behold, they didn’t look any different to me. My response:
I have the originals you sent, too, and I stand by my actions.
At this point, you’d think that The Ghoul, regardless of who was right, would get it that the correction was being made and all would be well. And you’d be wrong.
My final comment:
You know that I what I asked you to change was in red and was sent to you in a word attachment before the article was published. You had plenty of time to have those very minor changes made prior to print. All you had to do was re-send the new word document with those red highlighted words to your editor. If she saw the very minor changes, she could have made a 1 minute alteration before print. Anyway, you better hope that [product maker] makes no big deal of it. Legally I am protected and I have already talked with [product maker].
On another note, after re-reading your article, I have concluded that it is not very good after all.
No, that last e-mail, sent this morning, didn’t contain a “Nanny nanny boo boo” or “Yo mama!” remarkably enough.
Naturally, it is taking every ounce of my willpower to not respond with either “You got mad picked on in school, didn’t you?” or “You’re not going to start stalking me now, are you!??”