When Journalistic Ethics Aren’t So Ethical


In the course of writing a story about a golf club, a Grantland journalist named Caleb Hannan discovered that the club’s inventor was a transgender woman. She ended up committing suicide, which, though he doesn’t seem to realize it’s a possibility, could very well be the result of his outing her.

His article stands in contrast to one by Leonora LaPeter Anton, another journalist whose subject committed suicide, and indeed, another Grantland article on a trans subject published just a few days earlier.

In a blog post aptly titled “Sinatra’s Cold Is Contagious,” novelist Maria Dahvana Headley uses the story as an opportunity to question the truism among journalists that the story is the most important thing. How ethical are conventional journalistic ethics?

Rumpus friend Saeed Jones also wrote an incisive response to the situation and to other recent problems in the media’s portrayal of trans people.

UPDATE: Grantland has published two pieces, one from editor in chief Bill Simmons and one from transgender sportswriter Christina Kahrl, trying to address where they went wrong and how they and other publications can do better in the future.

Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →