Chuck Shepherd Answers Frequently Asked Questions
Is everything in News of the Weird true?
The truth is, I don't know. I don't report stories, myself; everything comes from a professional reporter, presumably with a professional editor, at a legitimate news organization, and I verify that the story was in fact published there on a certain date. However, if the reporter gets something wrong, I will, too. (If it's a significant error, and I come to be sure about the error, I'll correct it in a subsequent column.) Occasionally, I make my own errors, like misattributing the state or country of a particular town, or mixing up the name of, say, a prosecutor and a judge. And once every four or five years, I might be overcome by a momentary fog and run an illegitimate story, for which I whimper out an embarrassing apology.
Do you use reader contributions?
I love to get stories that happened in readers' own states, from their local newspapers, but I'd rather people not send me the stories that have run on the national or international Associated Press or Reuters wires because I'll see those, sooner or later. What's most helpful is if you'd think of me when you read local stories in newspapers (on paper or online) such as, oh, the Wichita Eagle or the Rutland Herald or an English-language newspaper (or its website) outside of North America, because I very often don't see those. If you find a good story online, please click me either a .txt version of the story, or just send the URL. Please do not send attachments or scans. If your news tip is more sketchy than that, please send it, anyway; I can usually find the story on some newspaper database.
What kinds of stories are you looking for?
If you read NOTW often, you know the kind of spirit I like in a story. You might also check out this list of the Top 10 Reasons why I didn't use the story someone sent. Finding 20 stories a week that qualify as "weird news" is not difficult; I could do that in an hour. But almost all my time is spent getting background on and comparing stories, finding themes, and ranking the stories according to quality. That part is very hard work. (In case you are wondering, I have no employees or assistants. I am a one-person operation, except for the website and sales folks at Universal Uclick and the kind readers who click me and mail me stories. That makes me fair-to-poor on office work and correspondence, but I do try really hard.)
Do you send gifts to people whose stories are used?
Uhhh, no. Perhaps I would if NOTW ever became as successful as Dear Abby or Dave Barry (who don't give gifts, either, by the way).
Are there News of the Weird books?
I have actually written five paperback book collections of these stories (two by myself and three co-authored with John J. Kohut and Roland Sweet). All are by now either out of print or very, very hard to find (but try Amazon.com). Perhaps another book will be along soon.
Can I use News of the Weird material in my publication or my website?
All NOTW text written by me is copyrighted, and the name News of the Weird is a registered trademark. Please, I beg you: Do the right thing here, and honor (by respecting my rights) the hard work I put into this. Here's a brief rendition on the law. If you are a commercial content provider (even if your product is free, even if you're a not-for-profit), contact Universal Uclick (print publications) or uclick (websites, etc.). If you're just an ordinary guy or gal running a hobby publication or website, you have my permission to link to News of the Weird, and you have my permission to reprint a few stories, from time to time, with attribution to News of the Weird. (However, you cannot create a "column" or "section" called News of the Weird without going through Universal Uclick.) You also have my permission to distribute the hell out of my free e-mailed publication, "Weekly Highlights from News of the Weird," including redistribution, posting, or whatever, as long as you run the whole thing including my little sales pitch at the end. You absolutely do not have permission (unless Universal Uclick gives it to you in writing) to publish in print, or to post on your website or e-mail distribution list, or to read on the radio, a News of the Weird column (either the whole column or most of the column), and that goes also for the not-free e-mail publication "News of the Weird / Pro Edition." Thank you for doing the right thing. (I'd hate to have to call on my ol' drinking and carousing buddy, John Ashcroft, to track you down and pack you off to Guantanamo.)
Will there by a News of the Weird for television or radio?
Many have tried over the years, but because of quirks in the respective markets for TV and radio, no project yet has made sense to enough stations to be profitable. I'm always open to suggestions, and in fact, I've always got a list of ideas just waiting for a receptive programing entrepreneur, but if your proposal consists merely of doing a show "just like ["Saturday Night Live" or this show or that show], only funnier," save your fingers because that got old to me in about 1992.
Are you receptive to complaints or criticisms?
If I've made an error of fact, I'd certainly like to know about it. (However, the vast majority of "errors of fact" that people write me about are not errors of fact but rather differences between them and me in interpretation of facts.) Now, if it's not a fact question, but you would just like to tell me that you didn't appreciate this story or that story being in News of the Weird because it was in poor taste or because you felt offended, you can go ahead and write, but it won't do a bit of good. People so easily offended tend not to read News of the Weird. Now, one enduring complaint that I acknowledge is indeed dead-on is about my writing style of cramming loads of information into short summaries. I do the best I can, but since I still write News of the Weird primarily for print publications, space is at a premium, and I consciously opt for cramming more into a briefer space, even if it means a few readers might have to work a little harder to take everything in. Try to look at it as my giving you an opportunity to demonstrate excellence at overcoming literary obstacles.