The Netiquette phrase of the day, Gentle Readers, is this: responsible reportage.

My training as a journalist is far behind me, but in my mind (debauched and deluded though it is), I still consider myself something of an ink slinger. Many serious bloggers consider themselves reporters, and I think rightly so; in my own personal case, I think it is perhaps overly generous to say that my byline has moved from the Metro section to the Op-Ed page. I’ve long since made my peace with that.

Here’s the thing: when I started blogging, I made the conscious (and, I hope conscientious) decision to deliberately avoid talking about that category of news that could best be classified as “Somebody Else’s Problems.” And now I find myself smack-dab in the middle of my own little Ethical Dilemma – how do you write about some seriously ill shit that has gone down around you when the drama falls squarely into the realm of S.E.P.*?

First, a little clarification. Better to get it out of the way now than to have to issue a retraction later. I am absolutely and unequivocally NOT above writing about celebrity gossip. In fact, I love it – scandal rags are a personal indulgence of mine. I can’t even call them a “guilty pleasure,” because I don’t feel the least bit of shame when picking up US Weekly and People and whatever the hell else and perusing them in line at the grocery store.

The reason why I don’t actually blog about these things? Is because I think there are so many people out there who cover them better than I could ever hope to. Everything I need to know about the mess that is Britney Spears’s life I get from MamaPop and Perez Hilton and PopSugar and Celebritology. Oh, and The Soup on E! Ditto Lindsay Lohan and Owen Wilson and the Beckhams: other people cover “Hollyweird” so that I don’t have to.

But when I say I won’t write about “Somebody Else’s Problems,” of course I mean that I won’t document the goings-on in the lives of people who are near and dear to me. Not the bad stuff, anyway**. I am willing to bare all about my own personal faults and foibles – of which there are many, believe you me – but when it comes to the people I am closest to, there are lines I don’t want to cross. For their protection, and for mine. You might have noticed that I don’t even refer to my husband by his real name, and most of you already know him personally.

So, anyway, here I am, between the devil and the deep blue sea, trying to figure out how to talk about things that are currently distressing me without naming names and, more importantly, further bruising hearts that are already broken. What can I say that will be specific enough for those concerned to know what I am really feeling, while at the same time being vague enough to throw the uninitiated off the scent? How can I vent my frustrations and pitch my own personal hissyfit without pissing more people off?

Also: am I still being an honest reporter when I use veiled references and weasel words and deliberately ambiguous language? Is it fair to try to protect my sources, even if it means that to do so, I cannot discuss what I am really feeling? Is it right? Am I just pretending to be trying to be objective? Is this really a gigantic fraud that I am perpetrating? Do other on-line journalists ever experience this conflict of interest? How do they deal with it?

And, am I fooling anyone by framing this entire situation as an ethical debate, when the real issue is, I just don’t know what to say?

For now, I think I will hedge my bets and err on the side of caution. I’m not 100% sure how to put all that I am thinking and feeling into words anyway, so it’s probably best to lay off for now, stew in my own juices, and come up with something brilliantly apropros later. (As if.)

Still, I can’t help thinking about what Dante said: “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” Does this apply to me, here? Does being careful equate to being neutral? What if I come right out and admit that I am choosing to say nothing because I don’t want to deal with all the bullshit aftermath? What then?

And when all is said and done, who is going to protect my feelings? Who is going to save me from myself?

* = Not my original concept. Borrowed – or, perhaps more accurately, “misappropriated” – from one of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books. Sorry, DNA.

** = Vicious lies.
Sometimes I write about the bad stuff, when I don’t think the subject will ever read what I wrote. Or if I don’t think the subject will care. Or if I don’t give a wet rat’s ass whether the subject will care or not. Suck it, Alan!


  1. i wish i could help!

  2. Hey, wow! My first anonymous comment! I'm actually flattered. Thanks!