How Freelance Writers Can Avoid Embarrassing Disasters

Total disasterIt’s every writer’s worst nightmare: You accept a gig, but fail at it. The project goes down in flames.

That client is never going to use you again. They’re not going to give you any glowing testimonials or refer you any more clients, either.

It’s almost worse than if you’d had no client at all, because of what it does to your self-confidence.

You can feel like crawling under a rock. It’s embarrassing.

Even worse, these train wrecks kill your productivity and your hourly rate.

The good news is, you can prevent disaster gigs.

In my experience, all disaster gigs have one thing in common. It’s something you can easily avoid, once you know what it is.

Read through the two examples below of disaster gigs writers recently told me about, and see if you can spot the common factor that creates these debacles.

In the first case, a new freelance writer took on an assignment to write a fundraising letter for a small nonprofit, hoping to create a strong sample for her portfolio:

“I was given a write up of the changes they made this year and links to three articles that ran in the local paper. And that was pretty much it.

“I thought I should get a quote from an actual family [the nonprofit serves], but I wasn’t given any. There weren’t any relevant quotes in the news articles, either.

“I wasn’t given anything in terms of past campaign information. I was trying to feel my way through. I tried looked at some other [nonprofits’] solicitation letters to use them as a template.

“I guess I thought I should be able to come up with something with limited information. I’m a writer, right?”

Our second case is a new client one copywriter took on after a phone meeting:

“The two partners in this business were very vague on what they wanted. Fooled around on the phone during the first call, laughing and giggling. I should have said goodbye then, but I needed the money.

“I wrote the first page, submitted it to them. They sent it back with revisions but offered no other feedback. I spoke with them again and again, and they were still very vague with what they wanted.

“I wrote the next nine pages and submitted them. They offered no feedback again other than telling me to ‘clean up my grammar.’ I went over the pages with a fine-tooth comb six times, and could not find grammar issues.

“Well, they fired me today through the third party who hired me. I have a deposit, but am out the hundreds of dollars [on the project].”

The disaster factor

Have you sussed out where these writers went wrong?

They both needed more information to successfully execute the assignments, but they didn’t get it.

Instead of being straight with the client about lacking enough facts to write, they tried to fake it and cobble something together based on the scraps they had.

This is a totally reliable recipe for freelance disaster.

Often, new writers think there must be stuff pro writers know about how to do this that they don’t. So they don’t ask for more info. But there isn’t.

Writers don’t become mind-readers over time. We just learn to get the client to fill us in, or we don’t write.

I have been known to shoot off dozens of emails seeking additional facts before sitting down to write for a business — or to re-call interview sources in an article more than once, to get one more question answered.

Your job as the writer is to keep toiling up the hill of needed facts until you’re on top of a mountain that’s solid enough to build your writing on.

If you give up and write before then, you’re wasting your time and killing a client relationship.

Disaster prevention 101

How can you avoid investing your precious time in a freelance writing project that is doomed to implode?

It’s simple: Don’t start writing if you don’t have what you need to do the job!

You are not Rumplestiltskin. You cannot spin straw into gold.

You need to mine the gold from your client or your article sources — those tidbits about their great new product’s features, or the dramatic story of how one interviewee overcame adversity.

Then you artfully melt and sculpt and arrange the nuggets you’ve gleaned into the right configuration of words.

That first writer indicated that “information was not given.” Often, it won’t be.

After she turned in her inadequate draft and dealt with the rejection, she told me, “One thing I did learn: ask for relevant information.”

Bin-go.

It is your job as the writer to ask — and keep asking, until you have everything you need to slay this assignment on the first draft.

Not the client’s job to give. Realize that often, they may not even know what’s needed to create good writing. It’s your job to extract the necessary factoids.

How to get clients to talk

Yes, some clients are more cooperative and forthcoming, and others are sort of a pain. But it’s your job to get what you need to do the gig — or to pull the plug, before you get in too deep and waste your time.

If a client is dragging their feet on information you need, give them options for moving this forward to the writing phase.

Do not start writing. Make it clear that you won’t write a word until you have the facts you need.

Here’s the sort of script I run when clients aren’t coughing up the data:

“I haven’t gotten the information I need, and you wanted this project completed in a week. Can the deadline push out? Or how would you like to proceed?”

“Is there perhaps someone else at the company talk to me? Where can I get an example of this? Are there other customers of yours I could try? That first one you gave me for the case study didn’t get back to me.”

In freelance writing, you will rarely be handed what you need. You will have to ask, often over and over again.

Then you will be able to turn in work your client will love. OK, maybe the first draft they’ll just like.

But guaranteed, it won’t be a disaster. You’ll be in the ballpark of what they wanted, because you got the raw materials you needed before you started to write.

Ever had a disaster gig? Comment and tell us about yours, and why you think it happened.
Freelance Writers Den

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51 comments on “How Freelance Writers Can Avoid Embarrassing Disasters
  1. I haven’t had a nightmare client, and I absolutely think this is due to me constantly asking questions. I get a little antsy about it, because I know editors and clients are busy and get a crap ton of emails. While I feel bad about that, I also know it is cutting down confusion, and in the end being slightly annoying with a good piece of writing is preferred.

    Great post, Carol!

    Reminds me of the saying, “You have not, because you ask not.”
    Williesha Morris recently posted…2 Ways Breakups Can Rock Your Business (For Good!)My Profile

  2. Karen J says:

    “If I was the Client…” (and given the way my thought processes work), I’d consider paying someone to “come up with a few/a number of article idea(s) first”; then sit down (or walk-and-talk) with the writer about how to flesh-out one or two, and give them the background and information they want or need to write it up.

    Input, anyone, on how to value/price that? (or even how to propose it, from either side?) Thanks for this space, Carol!
    Karen J recently posted…Inner Voices, take one ~My Profile

  3. Elke Feuer says:

    Great advice! It’s easy to think we should have all the answers or dig to find them, but that’s not always an option, and we have to be willing to ask questions and be straight with clients.
    Elke Feuer recently posted…Self Publishing — EditingMy Profile

  4. Samantha says:

    Hi Carol (or anyone else),

    Re. the need for adequate info before beginning a project, what would you say to potential clients who doubt that hiring a writer will save them much time because they’ll essentially need to do the info gathering for the writer anyway?

    For example, I’ve approached a couple of businesses with offers to resurrect abandoned blogs. Both these people have said something along the lines of “I’m the expert in my business; I’d have to explain so much to you about my product/daily events/industry jargon/renovation that by the time I write to you about them or you interview me, I may as well have blogged about it myself.”

    In a way, this seems like a valid point – what would you say to these time-starved “experts”?

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, for starters, you want to approach businesses where you’re familiar with their space and they WON’T have to explain everything.

      I tell them if they spend about 30-45 minutes with me once a month, their blogging project can be DONE. I can tell you they can’t write 4 or more blog posts in that time. And that’s all I need to get an idea list and a sense of their tone and jargon.

      • Karen J says:

        Samantha’s question and your answer, Carol, bring up this thought ~

        Another way around the “I don’t have the time” guy is to suggest they “Think of me as a newly-hired ace-closing salesman, who isn’t familiar with your particular product, either.
        “You’d be willing to spend more than a little time, showing and telling them about your products and processes before you expected them to get on the street, right?”

        It quickly short-circuits their “I don’t know how to deal with writers” block.
        Karen J recently posted…Inner Voices, take one ~My Profile

  5. I’m wondering how this might relate to a client who wants you to write blog posts for them. I come up with the topics and then, once they are approved, I’d be doing the research on them myself…is there something else I should be asking for to make sure the content is what they want? In my limited experience, I write website content that sticks to the topic/theme and that usually works, but perhaps it works differently with a direct client.
    Danyelle C. Overbo recently posted…Passport to Paris: Parisian Art at the Denver Art MuseumMy Profile

  6. Matt Blake says:

    My personal favorite is when a client gives little to no direction on a project, and mentions that they aren’t sure what they want, and to use my ‘creative freedom’. Once they receive an initial concept, proof, or draft then suddenly have tons of input on exactly what they want, and how what I provided isn’t anything like what they wanted. It’s nuts, I take it as part of the process sometimes, no matter how much I beg and ask for information and direction, they always seem to have none until I’ve put some work in.

    I’ve been lucky enough to use creative briefs and scope of work agreements that I can point back to, and get some clients to agree that they are expanding the initial scope of work and we renegotiate the rates involved. But not all the time.

    Information upfront is the key to happy clients and freelancers!
    Matt Blake recently posted…Where have I been? Automating, that’s where!My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Right on, Matt.

      With clients like that, at least do the tone exercise in my Copyblogger link up above. What are the five words that best express the undertone they want to convey about their company? Are they authoritative, friendly, approachable, technically dominant…what IS it? Especially helps with these sorts of people who don’t think they know what they want — usually they DO know the answer to this, and then at least you’ll nail the tone.

    • Karen J says:

      “Better at adjusting the existing than starting from scratch” – a perfectly valid brain-style: yours or the client’s. Many folks don’t recognize (or can’t articulate) that it’s how they operate best, though.
      Karen J recently posted…What do I want for my Birthday?My Profile

  7. Karen J says:

    Thank you Carol, for waving this great-big-red “get the information you need first” flag in front of my face! The balance point is not to be Alex’s client all over yourself, either (collecting too much useless information).
    That applies in so many parts of life – not just writing – not even only in *article writing*!
    Karen J recently posted…“Make Good Art!” – Neil GaimanMy Profile

  8. I’m pretty good about making sure I am clear about getting the information I need (I learned this the hard way early in my career). But the mistake that I have been making recently is thinking that now that I am pretty experienced is that I can write about any subject and can handle any type of deliverable. But I have learned the hard way (see post in the sig line) that I make a much higher hourly rate, develop long term clients and lower my stress level by sticking with the subjects and types of deliverables that are my strengths. And, no, there is not enough money in the world for me to ever write about fish again.
    Jennifer Gregory recently posted…The Importance of Having a Niche: Or How I Learned I was Not A Fish ExpertMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, you probably can do it…but as you discovered, it’s not a good idea to try that. Building on an expertise area just ends up so much easier and more lucrative.

  9. Sara says:

    I experienced this same problem in my early days as a graphic designer. I’d ask my boss questions about what she wanted in a piece and one time she gave me an answer I’ll never forget. She said, “I’ll know it when I see it.” WTF! That is lazy on their part, but often that is what you have to deal with. Sometimes clients really don’t know what they want and they hope that your skills will somehow allow you to magically pull what they want out of thin air.

    The way I learned to deal with this is to ask for examples of what they like. Is there a piece by a competitor that they saw and thought “I need something like that.”? Then I’ll ask what about it they like, and what they would improve on. I also ask what they DON’T like. This exercise leads me to ask deeper and more detailed questions about what they want, and because there is another piece in front of them to critique, to say “I like what they did here, but I don’t like this, make mine more X” then this helps the client verbalize what their want and tells you what their expectations are.

  10. Alex Gastel says:

    Hi Carol,

    I am a medical writer and I recently encountered another form of the problem you described: too much information, but most of it was useless and even misleading. My client wrote me walls of text with tons of information about the project – but most of it wasn’t relevant for me at all!

    So I had to sift through all of his gigantic emails to find the useful pieces of info. He even managed to confuse me: the project was a learning program (about medicine) and he emphasized about 5 times how important it is that there will be lots of mouseovers for the learners. When I made him mouseover-texts as part of my work he got angry and explained that the mouseovers aren’t part of my job…

    At that point I cancelled the job and never looked back. Clients that can’t communicate aren’t worth the time and stress…

    I wish I had read your article before that job. I love your counter-strategies!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Alex, I’d have to say I consider it YOUR job as the writer to find out what is part of your responsibilities.

      When someone starts talking links, that’s your cue to ask “How do you want those delivered? Want a list of URLs from me? Hypertext links from me? Footnotes? Oh, you’ll have someone else do those? Great.”

      Personally, I’m a great skimmer, and am happy to have a ton of info and to sift through it vs. I can’t get anything from the client.

      That’s often exactly why they hire a writer — they’re overwhelmed by all they know and need someone to help them winnow it down.

      One way out of the info overload is to take control of the interaction and ask specific questions that you say you NEED answered to proceed, once you’ve had a quick skim through what they send to get acquainted with the materials. Then, just use the answers to those questions, or read where they point you.

      Sorry this project went south on you…but hopefully this gives you a few tips for how to have a better outcome next time!

  11. Dan Stelter says:

    I have been in this situation before and have learned the same thing the hard way. This can be a sign of an altogether bad client, and very often is. What I would add is that you always get money in advance. Besides not being clear, this type of client also *may* pull other stunts that make your life hard. Despite your best questions, you still may not get clear answers – and they may try to blame you for a bad writing product. Get 50% down to get started and 50% when another milestone is reached. They also like to waste your time and run away with your money.
    Dan Stelter recently posted…10 Sales-Killing Blog Mistakes Your Company is Making Right NowMy Profile

  12. Emelia says:

    Thanks for this educational post Carol.

    I’ve had a couple of freelance disasters. Most of these disasters were caused by working through content mills subcontractors. Most subcontractors that I’ve worked with always acted like they knew what their client wanted. Later, they would return the work, telling me to rework my articles. I don’t have a problem with doing revisions only if it is not because someone gave me the wrong information.

    Like Becky, I believe a checklist can save us from wasting time.
    Emelia recently posted…Do You Know These 4 Things You Must Do Quickly After Attending a Free Webinar?My Profile

  13. Tom Crawford says:

    I never begin working until I have all the information I need. I make this very clear at the start of the project, and follow up with multiple emails until it is sent over. When I first began freelancing, I had a feeling of reluctance to ask the client for more information, but soon learned my lesson (I can relate to the examples above).

    Once again, I think this post highlights the importance of approaching the writing business as a professional, and acting in that manner. Usually this mindset will clear up such issues.
    Tom Crawford recently posted…My 5-Step Freelance Blogging Referral StrategyMy Profile

  14. Rob says:

    I’ve had one disaster gig, but didn’t take it personally. My client was very vague about what she wanted. After pressing for more information and not getting any, I wrote a rough draft and added, “This is a rough draft only, to get the ball rolling. Is this the sort of thing you’re after?” I got paid for the draft, but also got my only bad review on Elance from her. It was okay, though. That was the last gig I looked for on Elance.

    Clients have responsibilities, too. Good clients will tell you exactly what they want and great clients often have style guides you can refer to.
    Rob recently posted…The Brain in the BellyMy Profile

  15. Oh my goodness, this article made me laugh and wince at the same time. Funny but a very painful experience.

    I found the Den almost a year ago after struggling with mightily with clients who wanted everything yesterday for $10 hour, including unpaid networking on their behalf. Yeesh.

    Once you get the confidence to take charge, request what you need and lead the project, these kinds of experiences diminish. You can also detect them much like you do off-smelling fish. It also has nothing to do with your writing, so you can stop wondering of you’re good enough *clients can really play into this insecurity*- this is about business relationships.

    I won’t name names but my disasters have stemmed from:
    -Craigslist
    – SEO content marketers who will “do all the research give you the keywords and all you have to do is write a 1000 word blog post in about an hour for a ‘cool’ $20 if they accept your post. How does that sound?”
    – referrals from friends of friends who “don’t have much of a budget”

    Chin up and soldier on.
    Amy Dunn Moscoso recently posted…Hello world!My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Amy, I have never had much luck writing through an intermediary where they won’t let you touch the client, and they’re going to do the interviews and research and give you the info. Never does work out well.

      They think they’re creating efficiency (and usually taking a big markup while they’re at it), but usually they’re just creating a mess.

      And yes, one of the reasons I stopped looking at Craigslist ads back in late 2011 was analyzing my marketing and seeing those were just never my best clients. Good clients don’t hang around there.

      Fortunately I’ve never gone for the ‘friend of a friend with no budget’ scenario…always had the instincts to steer clear of that minefield!

  16. Holly Bowne says:

    Whoa! The timing of this post couldn’t have been better for me! I’ve had a couple of conversations with a local landscaping company owner who wants me to help him with…website copy and a brochure. Er, no…make that a door hanger for door-to-door sales. Um…nah, maybe let’s get back to the website copy and a booklet. Gee, can you evaluate my entire website and tell me if you think it’s working? Arrrghh!

    I was so grateful for Carol’s CopyBlogger post, “40 Questions You Need to Ask Every Copywriting Client” (http://www.copyblogger.com/copywriter-client-questions/ ). They helped me narrow down his focus a bit, but as nice as this potential client is, I was starting to feel like hyperventilating over how confused I was about what he wanted. And even though I was confused, in the back of my mind I felt like those writers you just profiled, as if other cooler, more professional writers would just know how to get the job done and it was just my lack of experience causing the problem.

    So far I’ve only committed to helping him rewrite his Home Page copy. After reading this post, I now feel totally comfortable pressing him to be more specific on what he wants me to do for him. And also being honest about whether something he’s asking for is outside my current skill set (i.e. being his marketing strategist!).

    Thanks again for another helpful post, Carol!
    Holly Bowne recently posted…Do We Need Classes in Common Sense?My Profile

  17. Mai Bantog says:

    Oh, I can totally relate! I once had a client who asked me to write a product description of something very technical, like a turbine or something. I can’t really remember; it was a long time ago. I did my own research and I assumed that I could pull it off since I’ve successfully written articles that I had no knowledge of before by simply relying on my own research skills.

    Bottom line is, the client hated my work, didn’t pay me, and abruptly ended my job without giving constructive feedback. I was really upset not because he didn’t pay me but because he just dropped me like that, without knowing what I did wrong. I’m the type of writer who puts constructive criticisms to heart, so that was just plain rude and self-depreciating.

    Lessons learned: don’t assume you know it all and look for more reputable clients.

    • Karen J says:

      I’m sorry to hear that story, Mai, and grateful that you’ve told it.
      It’s been a life-long rotten tendency of mine, to assume that I could “fake it through”, and then get so overwhelmed by all that *I don’t know* that I get completely stuck!

      Figuring out what questions to ask, and that it’s Okay – necessary even – to ask lots of questions – recognizing that is key!
      Karen J recently posted…Inner Voices, take one ~My Profile

  18. Leigh says:

    I wish I had known about your blog in 2007! I was very new to the writing world, and I was thrilled to land a client who was willing to pay me $40 per hour. I would be writing sell sheets for a trade show. My client was the event marketing company the product manufacturer had hired to coordinate all the trade show activities, and he sent me very little information. He didn’t send me ANY information on one product, and it hadn’t been released yet, so I couldn’t even go to the Web and look for info. When I asked him about it, he said, “Use your divine powers of literary wisdom to write something.”

    Are you surprised to learn that the client stiffed me on the $1,300 bill? No? How about that the client was hauled into court by several different companies (printers, graphic designers, etc.) for nonpayment? I know better now, but that $1,300 loss was devastating back then.

  19. Micki says:

    So very true. I think, many times, we as writers don’t feel it’s “our place” to question or challenge the client. However, by making our expectations clear and questions respectful, as the post outlines, we are participating in a successful outcome. This is beneficial to both the client and the writer.

  20. Lisa Baker says:

    Been there, done that. In fact, I think when I first joined the Freelance Writer’s Den, my very first post was a question about a client hating my work and me not understanding why. But this was exactly why — I didn’t get the info I needed from her before I started writing. The Den set me straight on that, and boy, I felt dumb. Obviously if I wasn’t sure what she wanted, I shouldn’t have started writing! But it’s true — when you’re a brand-new writer, you’re not sure what questions you need to ask, and you’re not sure how to phrase questions so you can drill down to what the client wants. That’s one of the most important skills a new writer needs to learn, I think — how to ask the right questions. I’m still working on it, but it’s such a great feeling when you DO hit on the right question and get that perfect quote! And I always know it when I get it. You can hear the moment when your interviewee stops talking from their canned responses and starts talking from their heart about their passion. And that’s where the gold is.
    Lisa Baker recently posted…5 Reasons Why You Should Quit PinterestMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Don’t feel dumb! We’ve all been through it.

      Ages ago, I was in a business networking group back in L.A., and did a brochure for another member who never paid me. I’ll never forget how proudly the woman told me she felt “totally comfortable” with her decision to stiff me. At the time I just thought she was a morally bankrupt individual, and I remember I dropped out of that group pretty quick!

      I realize now that at the time I knew NOTHING about writing brochures, and didn’t ask them very much about their business, so it probably was a pretty weak piece…and I shouldn’t have been surprised when the project fell apart.

      She didn’t tell me my copy sucked, just that she wasn’t paying. But with hindsight, I bet it wasn’t great.

      • Isabelle says:

        “I’ll never forget how proudly the woman told me she felt “totally comfortable” with her decision to stiff me.”

        Your copy might not having been on par but nor was the way she told you, IMHO.

  21. Becky says:

    I have a checklist that I either email or use as a guideline for initial phone interviews. Nonprofits and small business start-ups tend not to understand that these are the same questions their audience and investors will be asking. If I don’t get answers even after a second attempt, or if the answers are evasive or what I call squirmy, I usually won’t accept the job. That’s sort of a sixth sense I think new writers have to develop. Know what you need, ask for it and make your decision as to whether this is going to be a viable client based on the replies. There’s a difference between the client not knowing what you need, and not being willing or able to furnish the raw data.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’m with you, Becky.

      Maybe it’s because I don’t think I have a fabulous imagination, or I just don’t want to waste my time. But I’m not going to try to write for a client who thinks I can pull amazing copy about their company from thin air. It’s never going to work out well.

  22. Terri says:

    I had my first disaster a gig a few months ago. I was hired to write a letter for non-profit that is sent out to alumni and donors when asking for more monetary donations. I informed them that I edit until they are happy with my content. I sent in my first draft and my contact person was happy with it and requested just a few changes. I sent it back again and expected it to be perfect and that she would be satisfied with the results. I was so wrong. When I called to follow up, I was told the president hated it. I told her I would be happy to fix whatever was necessary until it was right. Apparently that wasn’t an option because the president just threw out my work and gave no feedback. She then told me that because the deadline for the printer was fast approaching she would just write it herself.

    Though I still got paid for the work, I was crushed. I understood that everyone isn’t going to like my writing, but I wasn’t prepared for someone to hate it so much that they would just throw it in the garbage. I’ve since gotten over that issue in confidence. I’ve also since realized that had I asked who my editor would be, this all would’ve been avoided. I was taking direction from someone who didn’t even have the final say in the matter. As a result, I’ve lost a potential client and any potential referrals. I wish I had thought to find out who made the final stamp of approval beforehand.
    Terri recently posted…Why I Admire the Hustle of StrippersMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Sorry to hear Terri. That IS one of my standard questions — who am I really reporting to here? But that’s just the beginning of the process.

      Then you ask THAT person a lot of questions about what needs to be in the piece. Then, you have a happy client.

      • Karen J says:

        Ask “questions about what needs to be in the piece” – of course!

        How do you approach finding out if there are topics or issues they *don’t* want you to bring up?
        And if there ARE, is there a hard line where that changes from a tactical writing issue to a “pull the plug” ethical issue?
        Karen J recently posted…First Impressions? Yeah, Whose, Exactly…My Profile

        • Carol Tice says:

          Karen, I haven’t had many clients ask me to do anything unethical…though quite a few prospects have. But I don’t work with them. For instance, when a business asks me if they could pay me to write about how great they are for Entrepreneur…I let them know that’s a conflict of interest that could end my career, and nothing they could pay would be worth it to me. I wrote more about this here:

          http://www.makealivingwriting.com/types-unethical-writing-assignments/

          In general, if a business has hired you, your job is to deliver the writing they want. It’s not usually a complex ethical area, unless they’re asking you to write outright lies that potentially slander some other individual or business…in which case you probably want to steer clear. But that’s a pretty rare scenario.

          If they want to avoid bringing up something and instead stress some other aspect of their business, it’s your job to execute on that. All marketing is about putting the client in the best light.

          This isn’t investigative journalism, where you’re bringing important truths to light or anything…it’s copywriting.

          I don’t usually ask if there’s something I should be sure NOT to write…because as long as they don’t tell me about it, I probably won’t know. Not a big risk it’ll end up in my draft.

          • Karen J says:

            Thanks, Carol!
            Glad to hear it’s not generally a common problem.
            I *do* have a tendency to need a solid answer to (even hypothetical) questions that I come up with, though, so asking here seemed better than floundering around (and probably p’o-ing prospects or clients) with awkward questions ISO awkward answers!
            Karen J recently posted…Inner Voices, take one ~My Profile

            • Carol Tice says:

              You know, to me it’s not awkward to say, “But, about the fire that happened in ’92…are we including that in this company history? Or the CEO who resigned after 18 months in an embezzlement scandal?”

              You know all, as the reporter, and then you get with the business and decide what to say.

              As it happens, I have a great ’50s diner car restaurant near me that’s been through about 5 owners — original one lost his fortune and marriage restoring it, then about 3-4 other owners couldn’t make a living at it, until the current ones, who’re rocking it.

              I ate there recently and noticed their company history on the back of the menu emphasizes the original owners who brought the diner car to its current locale and restored it, saying only good stuff about him…and then the current owners. They’ve snipped out all the unpleasantness in the middle.

              That sort of thing is the business’s perogative, how to tell their story. Hope that helps explain!

              To me those aren’t awkward questions to ask — just an awkward conversation if you DIDN’T ask, and then they hate the copy.