Grantland, a blog dedicated to in-depth sports reporting, has been having a reportedly introspective last few days. Last Wednesday the blog published a story wherein a reporter had investigated a golf club inventor and upon learning that she was born a man, outed her to an investor and may have threatened to out her publicly. The woman would later commit suicide, possibly due to the reporter’s actions.
Caleb [Hannan]’s biggest mistake? Outing Dr. V to one of her investors while she was still alive. I don’t think he understood the moral consequences of that decision, and frankly, neither did anyone working for Grantland. That misstep never occurred to me until I discussed it with Christina Kahrl yesterday. But that speaks to our collective ignorance about the issues facing the transgender community in general, as well as our biggest mistake: not educating ourselves on that front before seriously considering whether to run the piece.
It never occurred to anyone that something they had to investigate for months to find out might have been a sensitive subject? OK then.
The breakdown of why, even after the subject of the story’s suicide, they decided to publish the piece (outing her again to the world) was also presented. That logic also becomes strained, deeply in search of something (anything) other than “we already invested so much time and money into this, we needed a return.”
Not only did we feel terrible about what happened to Dr. V, we could never really know why it happened. Nor was there any way to find out.
Maybe that should have been enough of a reason to back off. In fact, we almost did. Multiple times. We never worried about outing her posthumously, which speaks to our ignorance about this topic in general. (Hold that thought.) We should have had that discussion before we posted the piece. (Hold that thought, too.) In the moment, we believed you couldn’t “out” someone who was already dead, especially if she was a public figure. Whether you believe we were right or wrong, let’s at least agree that we made an indefensible mistake not to solicit input from ANYONE in the trans community.
Possibly because they would have told you not to do it and you would lose the most click-worthy part of the story? Maybe, maybe not.
Simmons seems to take it all as a teaching moment and has pledged to try and learn something from the tragedy. He notes that in the future he and his colleagues will be more empathetic and careful with their reporting. Let’s hope so.
Photo from Ludovic Bertron under Creative Commons license.