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By W.B. King
ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- When a producer from ABC's New York office contacted the National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO) requesting a location to serve as a backdrop for an upcoming story on childhood prostitution, emotions were mixed.
"This was a sad, tragic story but we could not see how being a host would benefit our members," NATSO vice president of public affairs Mindy Long told CSNews Online.
Indeed, it is a tragic story. In 2005, two 16-yeard-old girls were kidnapped in Ohio and forced into a prostitution ring, a nightmare that lasted nearly three months and ended at a truck stop in Ann Arbor, Mich., where the girls were arrested. It was at that time that their story of abuse and torment was revealed.
According to Long, ABC had backlogged the story which will air on July 9. And while the reporting was completed, producers were requesting a location for stand-ups and transition shots; however, the locations that were suggested were located in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, more than a thousand miles from where the crimes were committed.
"We felt that it didn't make sense and we didn't want to associate a truck stop that wasn't involved with the story," Long told CSNews Online. "It would be like doing a story on the Olive Garden at a Cheesecake Factory."
Long was alerted to the story after one member received a request from ABC News. "NATSO should speak on behalf of our members and the industry," she said, adding that while no members have agreed to be filmed, they are entitled to make their own decisions.
In an amiable compromise, Long explained that NATSO has agreed to assist ABC in finding filler shots at other locations. "If we had more time we could have been more helpful," she said. "We will look to get shots of rows of trucks from area rest stops."
And while Long said she doesn't know that angle of the soon-to-be aired news piece, she maintained that NATSO is committed to providing its members with appropriate information and guidance. "This issue is very important," she told CSNews Online. "Our members want to provide a safe place for customers."