Caleb Hannan and the question of ethical journalism

kenneycb

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riboflav said:
 
Apparently, as Simmons wrote, multiple editors thought there was nothing worth publishing on Grantland until the final act. Defrauding an investor was not enough to go to press. Let's stop pretending that is why Caleb Hannan and Bill Simmons posted this article.
What am I pretending? You asked how a story of this nature could be interesting, so I gave you a reason people could find it interesting. Dateline and 20/20 have made legacies out of this formula.
 

riboflav

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kenneycb said:
What am I pretending? You asked how a story of this nature could be interesting, so I gave you a reason people could find it interesting. Dateline and 20/20 have made legacies out of this formula.
 
As I pointed out, Grantland editors disagree with you.
 
And, I never asked that question. I said it was lame to assume the public would find the defrauding of a small-time investor worth writing about. Again, it seems that Grantland also found that lame. 
 

riboflav

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This is what Simmons wrote tonight:
 
 
"We first reached the “Is it worth it?” point with Caleb’s piece in September, after Caleb turned in a rollicking draft that included a number of twists and turns. The story had no ending because Dr. V wouldn’t talk to him anymore. We never seriously considered running his piece, at least in that version’s form.
Our decision: Sorry, Caleb, you need to keep reporting this one. It’s not there."
 

kenneycb

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Sorry, you asked why the public would find a story of this nature interesting (only the fraud piece) yet fail to accept the fact that the term "public" extends beyond consumers of Grantland, like avid watchers of Dateline, 20/20 and shows of that ilk. My posts never address Grantland so I'm not sure why you're harping on that aspect.
 

luckiestman

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Just because something on average is true doesn't mean it is true on a case by case basis. People gaining some level of fame and then being exposed as frauds might also be on average more likely to commit suicide. I think it is relevant. Is it wrong for journalists to expose scammers if that could lead them to suicide. I think grantland played a major role in her death. I'm not sure the gender outing did. Let's say I find out Elton John lip synchs to a recording of someone else and I report this and I also report that he is gay and then he kills himself. Well, pretty sure most people know he is gay so the lip synching thing is probably what did it.

If what I am asking is offensive or strange it comes from a place of inquiry and let me know how what I'm saying is offensive and I'll correct it. To me the offensive part of the story is the implicit dr v is not who she claims to be, she's not even a she; I absolutely agree that is bad. I just currently view people trying to hang dr Vs death on the reporter for the gender issue and I'm not sure I see it that way.
 

epraz

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Does this editorial process happen differently if it's a piece in the NY Times or GQ?  I'm inclined to believe that a periodical with Bill Simmons for an editor-in-chief doesn't exactly have the greatest journalistic rigor, but I'm pure layman over here.
 

JazziBlaster

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luckiestman said:
Just because something on average is true doesn't mean it is true on a case by case basis. People gaining some level of fame and then being exposed as frauds might also be on average more likely to commit suicide. I think it is relevant. Is it wrong for journalists to expose scammers if that could lead them to suicide. I think grantland played a major role in her death. I'm not sure the gender outing did. Let's say I find out Elton John lip synchs to a recording of someone else and I report this and I also report that he is gay and then he kills himself. Well, pretty sure most people know he is gay so the lip synching thing is probably what did it.

If what I am asking is offensive or strange it comes from a place of inquiry and let me know how what I'm saying is offensive and I'll correct it. To me the offensive part of the story is the implicit dr v is not who she claims to be, she's not even a she; I absolutely agree that is bad. I just currently view people trying to hang dr Vs death on the reporter for the gender issue and I'm not sure I see it that way.
 
I wouldn't presume to speak for all trans women, but just speaking as one, under the right circumstances being outed is more than enough to lead suicide.  I'm sure the statistics on transgender suicide rates have been making the rounds, and I won't bore you with all of them, but just be aware that 41% of all trans people in the U.S. attempt suicide at least once (and the Hannan article mentions a previous suicide attempt, there may well have been others for Dr. V too).  It's a bumpy road that trans people walk, and depression and anxiety are extremely common.  So just consider that information as a little bit of context.
 
Being exposed as a fraudulent scientist was obviously going to be damaging for her, there's no disputing it.  And it's possible she wouldn't have been able to recover from it, and it may well have been enough to lead to her suicide.  But it may not have.  If people use her golf club and they like it, then it may not have really mattered that she didn't actually apply expertise with stealth bombers to the creation of the club.  It might still have sold just fine, and she might have been able to go on to other ventures with a shred of dignity in tact.
 
But doing this, outing her the way Hannan did, would have left her without that last shred of dignity.  It takes her entire identity away from her and reduces her to a man in a dress.
 
It is a real challenge for trans people, especially trans women, to be taken seriously in professional settings (or anywhere else frankly).  The reason we go "stealth," as Dr. V did, is not to trick anyone nor simply because we prefer it that way.  We go stealth because it's the only chance we have of being treated like normal people.  Had she not taken her own life, she would have forever been that tranny with the funny looking putter and the fake science degree.  She would have been a punchline.  And she knew it.  She likely lived in fear of that every day.  She went to great lengths to bury her past and create a new life for herself, one that would actually afford her the chance to be happy, and this single article would have been enough to shatter the whole thing for her.  I can't imagine having to start over a third time, and she probably couldn't either.  That she would rather die than face all of this isn't surprising to me at all.
 
It's not the kind of thing that on the surface may sound particularly life or death, but it's different when it's your life.  And just to be clear, you're not being offensive at all here.  You're asking a reasonable question, and hopefully my perspective helps your understanding a little.  
 

Gunfighter 09

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When she created an alternate past and then used that alternate past to steal money from investors and defraud the public, it really made it impossible for anyone to determine where the stealing / fraud started ended and the just trying to live with the gender identity she preferred began. If the sole purpose of her identity change and fabricated past was to get the world to accept her as she viewed herself, without defrauding others, Hannan would have had no reason to focus on her past. 
 
 A journalist has an obligation to the reader / consumer to reach the baseline truth once they find that the public is being duped for monetary gain. You can certainly find fault with how Hannan (and Grantland) presented that truth, and I thought Syd used the word "Ghoulish" appropriately, but the fact that society regularly treats people like Dr V like shit does not grant her  the ability to creat false credentials so she can sell more product.  If she wanted the journalist to "leave her alone", she could have used her company's website or even Gary McCord to renouce her false credentials and still kept her preferred identity.
 
 
 
Edit: One thing I am confused about in this story is McCord's role. How is the Dan Quayle story even possible? Why would he make that story, which seems impossible, up?  
 
When she created an alternate past and then used that alternate past to steal money from investors and defraud the public, it really made it impossible for anyone to determine where the stealing / fraud started ended and the just trying to live with the gender identity she preferred began. If the sole purpose of her identity change and fabricated past was to get the world to accept her as she viewed herself, without defrauding others, Hannan would have had no reason to focus on her past. 
 
 A journalist has an obligation to the reader / consumer to reach the baseline truth once they find that the public is being duped for monetary gain. You can certainly find fault with how Hannan (and Grantland) presented that truth, and I thought Syd used the word "Ghoulish" appropriately, but the fact that society regularly treats people like Dr V like shit does not grant her  the ability to creat false credentials so she can sell more product.  If she wanted the journalist to "leave her alone", she could have used her company's website or even Gary McCord to renouce her false credentials and still kept her preferred identity.
 
 
 
Edit: One thing I am confused about in this story is McCord's role. How is the Dan Quayle story even possible? Why would he make that story, which seems impossible, up?  


Bullshit. He had very good reason not to go digging into this woman's personal life. Not the least because that was specifically a condition of her cooperation in terms of writing the story. If he went digging into her life after she told him no then he should have excised any personal communication between the two of them.
 

Van Everyman

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Someone upthread mentioned that Simmons is wrong to suggest that Hannen being 31 is a worthy defense. Maybe so -- but my first thought was that it wasn't completely irrelevant either.

Over and over we've seen stories written by young, talented and aggressive writers that have proven to be problematic in today's media environment. Often because of a lack of perspective, experience and maturity. Just as often we've seen young writers get promoted quickly in the face of buyouts and so forth who lack the gravitas to stand up to their editors who are often older and care more about headlines, selling copy or access than writing an accurate, factual story.

To me, this dynamic wasn't the fundamental issue with this piece -- but there's no question Hannen's age didn't serve him, Grantland or the subject terribly well here. Nor did it give him insight or understanding into an issue into which his editors clearly had none.
 

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Gunfighter 09 said:
Edit: One thing I am confused about in this story is McCord's role. How is the Dan Quayle story even possible? Why would he make that story, which seems impossible, up?  
 
This is an interesting and very relevent question, because I would be willing to bet that that Dr. V's involvement with McCord was a more likely catalyst for her suicide than the story being written about her.
 
My guess is that the situation goes something like this:
  • McCord discovers putter.  Finds it interesting because (1) the core idea surrounding the technology (zero MOI) stands in stark contrast to the conventional wisdom about how to make an effective putter, and (2) it seems to work.
  • McCord appears in the video with Steve Elkington ("Secrets in the Dirt", which is apparently something Elkington does online) and discusses the putter.
  • McCord then works in a mention of the putter in one of his broadcasts when they highlight a player using the putter.
Knowing how the golf "endorsement industry" often works, I can see something like this happening more or less organically.  Because when players/former players (especially those with a media platform)  become infatuated with technology, they will often speak out about it on their own and then attempt to forge a relationship with the company marketing it.  If I take McCord's involvement at face value, this looks like how he got involved with Dr. V.
 
Everything after this should not be taken as gospel truth if only because Gary McCord is the source of information. 
 
McCord is a notorious serial exaggerator.  So I would guess that the rest of his story - introducing Dr. V to execs at Taylor Made; the involvement of the former VP (who is an avid golfer and friend of McCord) and the notion that they talked about "old Pentagon Projects" - there is more than a grain of truth to it all.  But it's also probably blown out of proportion/context by McCord, because that's what he does.
 
However, what seems very clear to me is that somewhere along the way someone - either McCord or someone at TaylorMade - decided to check on Dr. V and discovered that she did not have the scientific credentials she claimed to have.  And at that point, McCord cut her off, because he felt used and humiliated.  This would explain why he abruptly stopped talking to Hannan after being a reliable source of access and information.
 
These facts don't let Grantland off the hook for their decision to publish.  But I don't buy that they were the catalyst for this woman's downward spiral.  She triggered that herself when she decided to risk exposure by conning her investor and prominent people in the golf industry.  When McCord bailed on her, Dr. V. knew the con was unraveling and her exposure was a matter of time.
 
PBDWake said:
 
I do believe some of the backlash was a bit aggressive, fwiw. It's hard to wade into a pool of unfamiliarity and manage to walk a fine line. But, to be blunt, you did fail. You may not realize it, but you led with an insult. People are going to be upset with that. If I were to say that I was tired of dealing with "homophobes, bigots, and ConigliarosPotential" with this argument, you'd be justifiably upset. Why? Because in that context, you're being put into an equal category with homophobes and bigots. And when you talk about fabrications and half truths with her degree, work history, and gender, you're equating her status as a trans to a doctored lie of equal weight to the others. If you've ever seen Clerks 2, you were basically Randall lobbing "porch monkey" around in front of a black family without understanding the real meaning. And for the record, I don't think you're prejudiced or a bigot. I also don't have the expectations of knowledge for you that I would expect from a mainstream journalist writing a piece where he plans to talk openly about someone being a trans. Which is why this piece was garbage, in the end.
 
I agree - I did fail. And I understand why I failed now. And hopefully I've learned from my mistakes - I certainly feel as though I know a *lot* more about transgender issues than I did last week, thanks largely to the many insightful posts I've read in this thread.
 
Let me pose another hypothetical - I know the analogy I'm about to present is flawed, but hopefully you'll be willing to run with it and not immediately be offended by it. Suppose that instead of having a transgender identity in her past that she was trying to run from, Dr. V was a soccer goalkeeper, a hobby/pursuit about which she was very passionate. (Bear with me...) Hannan does his reporting, and discovers Dr. V's goalkeeping past: he knows that as a group, goalkeepers have a reputation for being somewhat odd and eccentric loners relative to the soccer-playing population at large, and he thinks this might in some way explain Dr. V's own eccentricities. Hannan mentions to Dr. V that he knows she used to be a goalkeeper, and Dr. V has a similarly violent reaction (warning Hannan that he was about to commit a hate crime in reporting that she used to be a goalkeeper, etc.), and the story snowballs from there in similar fashion. Then, after the story is published and you yourself read it, you discover that actually, the urge to be a goalkeeper is genetic, and that many former goalkeepers try to hide their goalkeeping past, and that the suicide rate amongst ex-goalkeepers is astronomically high, and that Hannan's reporting may have contributed to Dr. V's death.
 
Now...I know that on its face, this analogy is completely ridiculous. But here's why I've suggested it anyway:
 
1) Presumably it would come as a complete surprise to everyone here to discover that soccer goalkeeping was a genetic predisposition, and that the community of goalkeepers had certain traits which demanded special consideration from the journalistic community. Quite a few people here seem to be completely conversant with and comfortable discussing transgender issues; the analogy tries to level the playing field and bring everyone down to the same level of ignorance, to help the informed understand what it feels like to be similarly ignorant.
 
To put this another way: go back and read the first page of comments in this thread. Drocca was queasy from the outset about the article, but the list of those who supported it at the outset include some of SOSH's most respected posters. And it took three days before someone other than Drocca to voice any criticism about it - it isn't as though the story's transgender problems were readily apparent to everyone. I think the last two pages of this thread would look rather different if we had collectively discovered that goalkeeping was a genetic issue: there would have been far less outrage, and far more bewilderment along the lines of, "Gosh...I had no idea that ex-goalkeepers felt that way!"
 
(FWIW, I for one paid very little attention to the Chelsea Manning story, so all of this is pretty much completely new to me, but I suppose that's a flaw in the analogy - there had been some public spotlight shown on this issue already.)
 
2) The analogy may provide a clearer insight into why Grantland's reporting and editorial process failed. Wade Boggs Chicken Dinner posted, "It is unfreakingbelievable that none of these people could have thought for one second to seek out people who might have a different POV." If we'd been talking about soccer goalkeeping...well, the analogy may fail because Grantland is a sports website and someone might have had both the contacts and the brainwave to show the piece to another goalkeeper. But presumably your instinct would be to say, "Dr. V was a con artist who lied about her entire life; goalkeeping is just one more area of her life she's trying to hide from everyone. After all, it's only goalkeeping we're talking about here. Should I really stop writing this story because she's upset that I'm reporting she used to be a goalkeeper?" To ask the necessary questions - questions which may seem entirely obvious after the fact - you need to have the first scintilla of understanding that goalkeeping may be an issue so far beyond your own frame of reference that you're not qualified to understand it without first speaking to a goalkeeper.
 
To me, the most damning thing about Grantland's editorial process is that nobody thought to mention Christina Kahrl's name during the vetting period - they had the *perfect* person close at hand to give them the advice they needed, if only they had thought to ask her. But maybe the fact that she was there all along and still a wide range of experienced editors and journalists never thought to ask her perfectly demonstrates the point I'm trying to make. I was moved by Kahrl's article, but I also thought Simmons' own article was compelling in its own way. If you were knowledgeable about transgender issues before reading Dr. V's story, then I can see why Simmons' mea culpa may seem incomplete or self-serving...but for me, as someone who is learning more and more about transgender identity as the reaction to the story gathers pace, I strongly identify with Simmons' own perspective. 
 
[Disclaimer: Of course I know there's no real-life comparison to be made between goalkeeping and transgender identity. Just to make that clear...this is analogy is meant for illustrative purposes only. And to be perfectly transparent, I'm an ex-goalkeeper myself.]
 

smastroyin

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The whole problem is making the gender an "a-ha!" moment.  As well, I understand your struggle to make an analogy but yours is weak.  Really weak.  I don't think anyone was beaten to a pulp this week because of their identity as a goalie.  I don't think goalies are sentenced to death in any countries (unless they lose a cartel boss or warlord too much money on a bet I suppose).
 
The exact same story, leaving out the gender identity out of respect for the subject, would have been fine.  If the identity change had covered up significant malfeasance on her part in her past, that would also be something - in particular if you could determine somehow (I don't know how) that the gender identity was part of the con and she wasn't actually transgendered.
 
This is kind of a key issue because going forward, one important aspect that people are ignoring in their fervor to admonish Hannan - what happens when there is a legitimate news story that will out a transgendered person?  I don't think golf clubs rates and I agree with all of the issues of Hannan and his lack of empathy, etc.  But sometimes we get on these bents where because a person is a member of a protected class, they are absolved of being a bad person.  If it turned out a transgendered person was responsible for the bad intelligence at Benghazi, would we drop the story because we found out the person was transgendered?  I don't think we would, and yet the tenor of many articles is that we should, because outing them is worse than their own crime.  Again, this is a tough parallel because who cares about some golf clubs in the grand scheme.  But, fraud is fraud and to protect her identity should the fraud not have been exposed?  I don't know.  
 
Also, someone upthread used the word "tranny" to describe Dr. V, in a post that was defending her.  AFAIK, "tranny" is thought of as a pejorative among transgendered people, especially when it is coming from a cisgendered person.
 
smastroyin said:
This is kind of a key issue because going forward, one important aspect that people are ignoring in their fervor to admonish Hannan - what happens when there is a legitimate news story that will out a transgendered person?  I don't think golf clubs rates and I agree with all of the issues of Hannan and his lack of empathy, etc.  But sometimes we get on these bents where because a person is a member of a protected class, they are absolved of being a bad person.  If it turned out a transgendered person was responsible for the bad intelligence at Benghazi, would we drop the story because we found out the person was transgendered?  I don't think we would, and yet the tenor of many articles is that we should, because outing them is worse than their own crime.  Again, this is a tough parallel because who cares about some golf clubs in the grand scheme.  But, fraud is fraud and to protect her identity should the fraud not have been exposed?  I don't know.  
 
This is a great point and one I've been struggling with as well. It's not just a question of journalistic responsibilities - I also wonder how the transgender community would (or wouldn't) rally around the accused in cases like the one you've suggested. Not that I can think of any off the top of my head, but I'm sure there must have been similar examples of the homosexual community rallying around their own 25 or 30 years ago (when AIDS was thought to be the "gay disease"), even in circumstances where the accused hardly deserved their support.
 
By the way, to the extent that my goalkeeping analogy is hopelessly weak, feel free to substitute an alternative - I'd thought about making it that Dr. V was a soccer referee instead of a goalkeeper, which may work better insofar as referees actually are regularly verbally assaulted, sometimes physically assaulted and occasionally even killed just for being a referee. Or pick something which isn't related to sports at all - maybe that Dr. V was a trainspotter, or a morris dancer, or had another trait or characteristic or hobby from which she was trying to run. All I was trying to do was unpack and reframe the transgender issue in a way which might help someone who is initimately familiar with transgender issues understand how Hannan and Grantland could possibly mess up like this (without necessarily possessing any malicious intent).
 

MDJ

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ConigliarosPotential said:
 
This is a great point and one I've been struggling with as well. It's not just a question of journalistic responsibilities - I also wonder how the transgender community would (or wouldn't) rally around the accused in cases like the one you've suggested. Not that I can think of any off the top of my head, but I'm sure there must have been similar examples of the homosexual community rallying around their own 25 or 30 years ago (when AIDS was thought to be the "gay disease"), even in circumstances where the accused hardly deserved their support.
 
I'm pretty sure no one is saying that we can't or shouldn't report on misdeeds or crimes done by transgendered people.  The point is that all too often these cases are reported on as though the individual's status as a trans person is a MAJOR element of the story, instead of something that is essentially irrelevant.  Why would it need to be pointed out or commented on at all? 
 
 
In context, it feels like foreshadowing to make one conclude later on that "These uppity trannies are putting down the lovable grandfather of golf!" Kinda gross.


If this post here is the one to which you are referring, I was absolutely using the fact that tranny is a pejorative term whose use is " kinda gross." Indeed I was using the term to point out an ugly implication that the article seems to want us to draw.
 

DJnVa

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A smaller point that I was wondering about as I read this article. 
 
McCord said he was on friendly terms with a few retired four-star generals. He told me that they not only knew of Dr. V, but also that one had even called her “one of us.” Dan Quayle was also an acquaintance. Unable to help himself, McCord once put the former vice-president on the phone with Dr. V and watched as they chatted about old Pentagon projects.
 
 
So, was Gary McCord lying? Who are these four-stars he claims he knows that know this person that didn't exist?
 
EDIT: I see some people already brought this up...but McCord needs some backlash here...
 

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DrewDawg said:
A smaller point that I was wondering about as I read this article. 
 
 
So, was Gary McCord lying? Who are these four-stars he claims he knows that know this person that didn't exist?
 
EDIT: I see some people already brought this up...but McCord needs some backlash here...
 
I did already mention the fact that McCord is a serial exaggerator.  And my guess is that he did talk to some folks he knew/knows and out of politeness they may have told him what he wanted to hear.  I have no idea whether he actually set up a call with Dan Quayle, but the former Vice President is a friend of his, so it is at least plausible.
 
I'm not sure what sort of backlash you want for Gary McCord.  He was taken in by a con artist and as a result he was undoubtedly humiliated in front of his friends, his employer and the company he has an endorsement contract with.  So I'm not sure what you are driving at.
 

Infield Infidel

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The Christina Kahrl post is must-read. Magnificently written, taking something that is essentially complex and breaking every nuance down into easy-to-ounderstand pieces full of both education and empathy. I hadn't really thought about the last point she made (probably because I hardly ever think about golf fans), but it was impactful to say the least once I gave it some thought. 
 
it's been posted before but I'm posting the link here too 
http://grantland.com/features/what-grantland-got-wrong/
 

smastroyin

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MDJ said:
 
I'm pretty sure no one is saying that we can't or shouldn't report on misdeeds or crimes done by transgendered people.  The point is that all too often these cases are reported on as though the individual's status as a trans person is a MAJOR element of the story, instead of something that is essentially irrelevant.  Why would it need to be pointed out or commented on at all? 
 
My point was vague and I didn't link, but several of the blog stories about this incident implicitly state that due to her transgender, Dr. V had a heightened right to privacy.  One blog post (sorry I've read a ton) actually said that the crime shouldn't be pursued because it would inevitably lead to the outing and suicide.  
 
Here is a quote from the Boing Boing blog linked above:
 

In any case, the writer would know that publishing a news article about possibly-criminal activity would generate intense further scrutiny of his subject. Whether or not anything about Dr. V was legitimately newsworthy, any mainstream story about Dr. V was likely to end in her exposure, even if it did not expose her.
 
The implication of this line of thinking is that in this case, the crime did not befit the outing, and the exposure should never have been made.  Now, I may agree in this specific case, but I'm not sure who gets to decide where to draw that line.  I also agree that the person's gender has literally nothing to do with the crime.  And last, I agree that it is sad and unfortunate that people have to hide their identities for fear of persecution.  But, if a person commits a crime and something like this comes out in the investigation, do we stop?  
 
My point is not that Dr. Z's gender is germane to the story or the fraud.  However, how do we spare someone who gets put in the public eye from scrutiny?  And what level should a person expect to be protected from this exposure due to their protected class?  Perhaps I'm not framing this well.  
 
Christina Kahrl touched on this a bit:
 

One of the difficulties that Essay Anne had imposed on herself is that, while trying to live a life in total stealth, she was also a hostage to the impossible and implausible collection of lies she’d created to promote her invention, inevitably risking discovery in an era when a cursory investigation can invalidate claims about something like a doctorate.
 
I want to be clear, you can go down this road to victim blaming and that is also not the right place to be.  But, I'm not sure you can reasonably expect all of your secrets to be kept when you are also standing on a series of easily debunked lies.  
 
I am also avoiding the issue of the journalistic integrity because many others have said it better.  Suffice to say I agree 100% with Christina's piece.
 

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smastroyin said:
If it turned out a transgendered person was responsible for the bad intelligence at Benghazi, would we drop the story because we found out the person was transgendered?  I don't think we would, and yet the tenor of many articles is that we should, because outing them is worse than their own crime.  Again, this is a tough parallel because who cares about some golf clubs in the grand scheme.  But, fraud is fraud and to protect her identity should the fraud not have been exposed?  I don't know.  
 
But this doesn't make sense. What is the situation where a person's transgenderedness would be germane to someone giving bad intelligence? Or doing anything?
 
Someone who is transgendered can commit murder without the person's gender status being relevant. A person did a bad thing. 
 
The only time I could see it being relevant is if the person killed someone to avoid being outed or something like that. 
 
No one's saying that Dr. V's fraud shouldn't have been exposed. They're saying Dr. V's transgendered status isn't part of the fraud. 
 
Edit: Our posts crossed, Smas. I understand the point you're trying to make now, with the benefit to the linked and quoted blog posts.
 

The Allented Mr Ripley

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When I read the article, I never got the sense that Vanderbilt's transgender status was a "gotcha" moment. Maybe it's because Hannan telegraphed it early on, maybe it's because that wasn't really the story for me. The "gotcha" for me was that Vanderbilt wasn't a scientist and had built an elaborate web of lies around her entire life, lies that had nothing to do with her gender, because in my mind that's not a lie; she was a she, regardless of being born a male.
 
In thinking about the article some more, I can see that the danger is lumping in Vanderbilt's gender as being one more lie that's indicative of her lack of trustworthiness. I didn't get that impression while reading it, but that doesn't mean that wasn't part of Hannan's intent... I may have glossed it over because to me it was a non-issue.
 
I still think there was a story here, and I think Hannan did his investigative duty. But did he handle that information well? Did he write about it appropriately? Despite my earlier defense of him, I'm thinking he didn't. Christina Kahrl's piece certainly helped me in that regard. Ultimately the entire issue of gender should have been, well, a non-issue, one not worth even mentioning to the other sources involved as story evolved, nor in the completed article.
 
The article should have been written. It's too bad it wasn't written by someone else, or had a different editor shepherding it.
 

DJnVa

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Average Reds said:
 
I did already mention the fact that McCord is a serial exaggerator.  And my guess is that he did talk to some folks he knew/knows and out of politeness they may have told him what he wanted to hear.  I have no idea whether he actually set up a call with Dan Quayle, but the former Vice President is a friend of his, so it is at least plausible.
 
I'm not sure what sort of backlash you want for Gary McCord.  He was taken in by a con artist and as a result he was undoubtedly humiliated in front of his friends, his employer and the company he has an endorsement contract with.  So I'm not sure what you are driving at.
 
You think four-stars lied to McCord saying they knew someone that didn't exist? Or was McCord trying, at this point in the story, to make Dr. V seem important for some reason?
 
I'm driving at how McCord told Hannan that these four-stars knew this person. And maybe "backlash" isn't the right word, but he either lied to Hannan about military people knowing this non-existant person or for some reason these people lied to him. That's interesting to me. McCord provided the impetus for this thing--he gave credence to the theory that she was this big time scientist, which start Hannan down this road. I'd like to know how that came about.
 

kenneycb

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DrewDawg said:
 
You think four-stars lied to McCord saying they knew someone that didn't exist? Or was McCord trying, at this point in the story, to make Dr. V seem important for some reason?
 
I'm driving at how McCord told Hannan that these four-stars knew this person. And maybe "backlash" isn't the right word, but he either lied to Hannan about military people knowing this non-existant person or for some reason these people lied to him. That's interesting to me. McCord provided the impetus for this thing--he gave credence to the theory that she was this big time scientist, which start Hannan down this road. I'd like to know how that came about.
It's probably Gary McCord trying to sound important to Gary McCord.
 

joe dokes

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I dont buy this part of Simmons apology:
 
collective ignorance about the issues facing the transgender community in general. Someone familiar with the transgender community should have read Caleb’s final draft. This never occurred to us," said Simmons.
 
 
I think it damn well occurred to Simmons and he consciously thought that the story was good to run. Or at least not bad to run. He's got issues (I'll get to those), but he's not an idiot. No reasonably intelligent person in his shoes could read that story and NOT think, "Ya know, I think I want to talk to someone about this.  I think it should run, but still . . . ." Its much more damning to admit that it was a conscious decision, but IMO, there's no way it couldn't have been. I'm NOT saying he had bad intent. Just that his ignorance was demonstrated in a more affirmative way.
 
As for Simmons....he has made his bones by loudly professing the fact that his cultural awareness extends from one extreme -- The Karate Kid -- to the other -- 90210.  That's how he became popular and successful. And now he's the editor of a publication that is striving to be a Very Serious outlet within the context of sports.  So be it. But Simmons's ability to be "Very Serious" is limited by his own limitations.  This situation called for an adult in the room. Or for someone to at least summon an adult. Simmons is not that adult.
 
I agree with whoever suggested that being transgendered is not some sort of immunity against having misdeeds investigated and reported.  And, as Kahrl pointed out in her tremendous piece, the lies about the putter and credentials made it more likely that she'd be outed.  But that decision was not Grantland's to make under these circumstances.  This is also related to something that I think is being overlooked. Very few people give a shit about this outside the Very Thick Walls of Our Nation's Country Clubs. Perhaps those who nod approvingly when Jim Nantz  or johnny Miller describes an 8-foot sidehill par put as "courageous."  I like watching golf. I even play once or twice a year.  But I do not follow the ins and outs of the Callaway-Titlest patent battles, or the non-competes and trade secret battles as manufacturers' employees keep switching emploers. I'm sure others do. To me, that makes Grantland's error even more egregious. Its an important golf story. But perspective is required. and perspective is not Simmons's strong suit.
 
 
 

DJnVa

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kenneycb said:
It's probably Gary McCord trying to sound important to Gary McCord.
 
Yes. I know. I just want him to be called on it.
 

Average Reds

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kenneycb said:
It's probably Gary McCord trying to sound important to Gary McCord.
 
This is obviously true.  How he didn't get that from what I wrote is baffling to me.
 
DrewDawg said:
 
Yes. I know. I just want him to be called on it.
 
Hasn't he been called on it already by the publication of the article? 
 

DJnVa

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Average Reds said:
 
This is obviously true.  How he didn't get that from what I wrote is baffling to me.
 
 
Hasn't he been called on it already by the publication of the article? 
 
1--I did get it from what you wrote. I'm really not sure what we're disagreeing on.
 
2-Yes, he's been called on it. I simply would like to see his response to it now that the article is out. That's it. I said it wasn't a big deal, but that it would be interesting *to me* to see what he'd say now. Mostly because I think he's a blowhard.
 
"Gary, this article intimates that you lied or embellished, care to comment?" I'm not saying this is key to unraveling anything. It's just interesting to me to see his response. I like when braggarts get called on things.
 

Average Reds

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DrewDawg said:
 
1--I did get it from what you wrote. I'm really not sure what we're disagreeing on.
 
2-Yes, he's been called on it. I simply would like to see his response to it now that the article is out. That's it. I said it wasn't a big deal, but that it would be interesting *to me* to see what he'd say now. Mostly because I think he's a blowhard.
 
"Gary, this article intimates that you lied or embellished, care to comment?" I'm not saying this is key to unraveling anything. It's just interesting to me to see his response. I like when braggarts get called on things.
 
If there is any truth to the story that McCord introduced Dr. V to the execs at TaylorMade, the chances are good that she was exposed as a con artist when the company checked her out.  Because regardless of what conditions she put on working with her, R&D execs at a multi-billion dollar sport conglomerate aren't going to have a second meeting without doing some basic background checks on the technology and scientist in question.
 
Given the inevitable discovery of the fraud and the subsequent suicide of Dr. V, I'm guessing that lawyers at both TaylorMade and CBS have advised McCord that he really shouldn't say another word on this matter if at all possible. 
 
Edit:  There's no disagreement that he's a blowhard. 
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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ConigliarosPotential said:
By the way, to the extent that my goalkeeping analogy is hopelessly weak, feel free to substitute an alternative.
 
Your analogy is hopelessly weak because you are picking an example because being a goalkeeper does not have the enormous amount of socio-psychological examples associated with it, and just by saying "pretend it does" doesn't mean that you can actually pretend it does.
 
So here is one.  Let's suppose Dr. V had ALS.  Or even cancer.  Would it be necessary to include that in the article?  Of course not.  And if an interview subject asked a reporter to keep a medical diagnosis quiet - perhaps the subject has not informed friends or family yet - I would suspect that every writer would not include it. 
 
"Oh by the way, as a post-script to this story, Dr. V has a terminal illness that she hasn't told anyone about."
 

Kliq

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Has anybody mentioned the fact that Dr. V had previously attempted suicide before any of this had even occured? Dr. V, to me, was someone who clearly had a significant amount of mental issues, and I don't know how you can say Grantland was solely responsible for pushing Dr. V into suicide, because I personally thought her suicide was probably a combination of many different issues, that extend far beyond someone writing a feature article on her.
 

joe dokes

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Kliq said:
Has anybody mentioned the fact that Dr. V had previously attempted suicide before any of this had even occured? Dr. V, to me, was someone who clearly had a significant amount of mental issues, and I don't know how you can say Grantland was solely responsible for pushing Dr. V into suicide, because I personally thought her suicide was probably a combination of many different issues, that extend far beyond someone writing a feature article on her.
 
I guess that makes the story OK, doesn't it?
I think to characterize this as ""writing a feature article on her" misses the point. In light of all that has been said about the issue here and elsewhere, describing her as having "mental issues"  misses it by even more. "Solely responsible" is a strawman of the highest order.
 

Kliq

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joe dokes said:
 
I guess that makes the story OK, doesn't it?
I think to characterize this as ""writing a feature article on her" misses the point. In light of all that has been said about the issue here and elsewhere, describing her as having "mental issues"  misses it by even more. "Solely responsible" is a strawman of the highest order.
 
I'm not saying the article was okay, and I'm not saying that they were simply writing a feature on her. What I am saying is that some people on here want to place all this blame on Grantland for causing her suicide, when there is evidence that she was suicidal before Grantland even conceived of writing this article.
 
And when I mean "mental issues" I'm not referring to her being transgender. I'm referring to the fact that she was a pathological liar, seemingly bi-polar, and previously suicidal.
 

riboflav

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Kliq said:
 
I'm not saying the article was okay, and I'm not saying that they were simply writing a feature on her. What I am saying is that some people on here want to place all this blame on Grantland for causing her suicide, when there is evidence that she was suicidal before Grantland even conceived of writing this article.
 
And when I mean "mental issues" I'm not referring to her being transgender. I'm referring to the fact that she was a pathological liar, seemingly bi-polar, and previously suicidal.
 
I haven't seen that anywhere on SoSH. Can you quote the posts?
 

The Social Chair

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The only people I've seen blame Hannan for Dr. V's death are a few transgender activists. Hannan outting Dr. V to her investors was an awful thing to do and something he'll have to live with, but it's a bridge too far to blame him for her death.
 

curly2

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epraz said:
Does this editorial process happen differently if it's a piece in the NY Times or GQ?  I'm inclined to believe that a periodical with Bill Simmons for an editor-in-chief doesn't exactly have the greatest journalistic rigor, but I'm pure layman over here.
 
It sounds like they were diligent about having their staff read it, but the staff wasn't diverse enough to see any problem with it. Sports media are largely male, and my guess is that Grantland is that way I have no knowledge, but I would guess the Times or GQ might have more women and gay people on staff and possibly a transgender person.
 
Six years ago, one of my oldest and best friends became a transgender, and I am much more knowledgable about the subject than in the past. However, even if that weren't the case, the line "a chill actually ran up my spine" would have jumped out at me as unacceptable.
 
As Simmons said, not running the story by a transgender person was truly a dumb move, especially when ESPN has one in "the family" in Christina Kahrl. 
 
If they had run a story about a player claiming doctors had botched his diagnosis, ending his career, Im sure they would have had at least one doctor reading to make sure all the terminology was correct.
 

luckiestman

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joe dokes said:
 
I guess that makes the story OK, doesn't it?
I think to characterize this as ""writing a feature article on her" misses the point. In light of all that has been said about the issue here and elsewhere, describing her as having "mental issues"  misses it by even more. "Solely responsible" is a strawman of the highest order.
I earlier asked a similar question, but didn't say "mental issue" I said mental illness. If I was Hannah, the first thing I would have thought after the first reported conversation is that this person sounds like they have very real mental health problems. I don;t mean anything about the gender issue and I don't mean it in "Whoa, this chick is crazy" sort of way. That is why I am curious as to what the journalistic line is. If the gender issue didn't exist, is it ok to expose a mentally ill person running a fraud? Wouldn't a person who previously attempted suicide be more likely to attempt again?  
 
What you are doing in your comment is exactly what I figured someone would try to do. Wash over what seems like some that has major mental health problems to laser focus on the transgender issue. These things shouldn't have to compete.
 
Did you notice the line about the informing of the suicide. Seemed very cold, right? Did you chalk that up to the bigotry of the brother-in-law? Maybe, but there is an alternative. The collateral damage of mental illness can be very severe. And if you place intent on the behavior of mentally ill people, you might end up hating them as much as the brother-in-law seemed to hate Dr V. 
 

luckiestman

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JazziBlaster said:
 
 
It is a real challenge for trans people, especially trans women, to be taken seriously in professional settings (or anywhere else frankly).  The reason we go "stealth," as Dr. V did, is not to trick anyone nor simply because we prefer it that way.  We go stealth because it's the only chance we have of being treated like normal people.  Had she not taken her own life, she would have forever been that tranny with the funny looking putter and the fake science degree.  She would have been a punchline.  And she knew it.  She likely lived in fear of that every day.  She went to great lengths to bury her past and create a new life for herself, one that would actually afford her the chance to be happy, and this single article would have been enough to shatter the whole thing for her.  I can't imagine having to start over a third time, and she probably couldn't either.  That she would rather die than face all of this isn't surprising to me at all.
 
Thanks for your response, it is a lot to think about. I've been asking a lot about the mental health issue and it sort of gets to your point of starting over. Dr V made up a fantastical past that almost seems to want people to research it. Maybe it is the wrong way to think about it, but I imagine someone going into witness protection and I can;t imagine they would give themselves such a high profile. 
 
Do you know who Deidre McCloskey is? I only ask because she seems somewhat antithetical to the image of TG people I'm learning about this week. But she's an economist, and theyre always looking for fights no matter what the topic. 
 

fairlee76

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luckiestman said:
Has it been lost that Dr V seems mentally ill (and I don't mean depression)? Independent of the gender identity issue, Dr V did not seem well and was also doing some pretty heavy fraud. 
 
The gender identity issue is there, but if it wasn't and if Dr V killed herself because she was exposed as a fraud, would that be ok? Or should the author have thought  "Ok, this person is not well....what is my responsibility" If he did nothing, wouldn't he be helping a fraudster?
The mental illness angle is what really struck me as well and I have no idea what the proper course of action for Hannan would have been.  I am pretty certain that pushing the issue, outing her as a fraud (both on her educational credentials and her previous work experience), and telling an investor of her gender status were all the wrong things to do.  Hannan comes across as more than a little vindictive.  Just a really tough story to read, especially knowing that Dr. V ended up killing herself.
 
It's been said by many others.  But Hannan really let his ego/inquisitiveness blur his judgment of the proper way to treat a fellow human being, one who seemed obviously mentally ill.
 

The Allented Mr Ripley

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fairlee76 said:
The mental illness angle is what really struck me as well and I have no idea what the proper course of action for Hannan would have been.  I am pretty certain that pushing the issue, outing her as a fraud (both on her educational credentials and her previous work experience), and telling an investor of her gender status were all the wrong things to do.  Hannan comes across as more than a little vindictive.  Just a really tough story to read, especially knowing that Dr. V ended up killing herself.
 
It's been said by many others.  But Hannan really let his ego/inquisitiveness blur his judgment of the proper way to treat a fellow human being, one who seemed obviously mentally ill.
 
I don't have a problem with this. She put her credentials out there as part of her business efforts, her science background was what separated her from her competitors and it's what made her putter the best one on the market (supposedly).
 
The rest is certainly questionable. I think that's what makes the reaction to the article so divisive.
 

joe dokes

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luckiestman said:
I earlier asked a similar question, but didn't say "mental issue" I said mental illness. If I was Hannah, the first thing I would have thought after the first reported conversation is that this person sounds like they have very real mental health problems. I don;t mean anything about the gender issue and I don't mean it in "Whoa, this chick is crazy" sort of way. That is why I am curious as to what the journalistic line is. If the gender issue didn't exist, is it ok to expose a mentally ill person running a fraud? Wouldn't a person who previously attempted suicide be more likely to attempt again?  
 
What you are doing in your comment is exactly what I figured someone would try to do. Wash over what seems like some that has major mental health problems to laser focus on the transgender issue. These things shouldn't have to compete.
 
Did you notice the line about the informing of the suicide. Seemed very cold, right? Did you chalk that up to the bigotry of the brother-in-law? Maybe, but there is an alternative. The collateral damage of mental illness can be very severe. And if you place intent on the behavior of mentally ill people, you might end up hating them as much as the brother-in-law seemed to hate Dr V. 
 
 
I think its difficult to disaggregate the issues created solely by having to go stealth with unrelated forms of mental illness. (referring to the high suicide rate of transgender people.)
 
If the gender issue didn't exist . . . . .I dont think reporters have an obligation to determine whether someone is truly mentally ill. The transgender knowledge is different. Hannan knows it.
 
I dont think I'm saying much different than others have said.  I dont think its right to say that the reporting *caused* the suicide. *Any* attempt to attribute *anyone's* suicide to a single cause is fraught with difficulty -- especially for non/never-been suicidal amatuers like me.
 
But the issue of whether there was *any* role in that story for the fact that she was transgender is a simple one. There wasn't.  The invasion of privacy far exceeded whatever amount the story was buttressed by including the reason why he could find no record of her.
 
EDIT: For completeness, I agree with Ripley that the academic/credential/employment frauds were legitimate parts of a story. I havent scoured the intertubes.;...are there those who think the *whole thing* should have been spiked?
 
I think Hannan screwed up, and I feel bad for the guy.   Just because all bigotry stems from ignorance doesn't mean that all who are ignorant are bigots.
 

riboflav

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Joe,
 
Last night, I argued that based on the Simmons apology one can easily infer that Grantland did not find the story worthy of publishing until she had been outed or the suicide occurred. The human interest story was simply not there. After some consideration, I can certainly now see that the article may have been a "good" story without the final act and therefore worthwhile to publish. That said, I and many others I know are confused by Simmons's apology in which he said that no one at Grantland thought in September that there was much of a story here. I believe that by September, Hannan had already uncovered all her phony work credentials. This means, in my opinion, that the outing or suicide in October triggered the green light on the article.
 
I am open to being corrected if I have misinterpreted his apology or if I have the timeline confused.
 

JazziBlaster

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luckiestman said:
Thanks for your response, it is a lot to think about. I've been asking a lot about the mental health issue and it sort of gets to your point of starting over. Dr V made up a fantastical past that almost seems to want people to research it. Maybe it is the wrong way to think about it, but I imagine someone going into witness protection and I can;t imagine they would give themselves such a high profile. 
 
Do you know who Deidre McCloskey is? I only ask because she seems somewhat antithetical to the image of TG people I'm learning about this week. But she's an economist, and theyre always looking for fights no matter what the topic. 
 
Personally I am a bit at a loss as to why Dr. V claimed to have the exact credentials that she did, though if I had to hazard a guess it would be that she figured "secret government" stuff would be harder for an average investor, colleague, reporter, or whoever to successfully vet.  It seemed to be working pretty well for a while, too.  Most of us don't create fake backstories for ourselves, obviously, we just reference our past less frequently than typical cis people probably do.  Some trans people will just use their own background and update the pronouns, some people don't correct the pronouns and are open about their old lives, and others dissociate entirely from their past.  But that's an individual decision and everyone of us has to make that calculation for herself.  Dr. V's story was pretty lofty, and that's always a bit of a dangerous game, but it was hers to play.  She had to have known the risks.  There could have been a mental illness at play here, but I would be hesitant to draw that conclusion, since all we have to go on is an article with a narrator who I'm not at all convinced presented a balanced account of events.  
 
And to your question, I'm only vaguely familiar with Deidre McCloskey.  For anyone who's not, this recent piece from an Australian newspaper seems to give a fair indication of her character:
 
 http://www.smh.com.au/business/economist-deirdre-mccloskey-playing-both-sides-of-the-street-20131129-2ygwu.html
 
She is perhaps a bit more assertive than most trans women, which as you say may well be a function of her background as an economist.  Like cis women though, trans women come in all kinds.
 

joe dokes

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riboflav said:
Joe,
 
Last night, I argued that based on the Simmons apology one can easily infer that Grantland did not find the story worthy of publishing until she had been outed or the suicide occurred. The human interest story was simply not there. After some consideration, I can certainly now see that the article may have been a "good" story without the final act and therefore worthwhile to publish. That said, I and many others I know are confused by Simmons's apology in which he said that no one at Grantland thought in September that there was much of a story here. I believe that by September, Hannan had already uncovered all her phony work credentials. This means, in my opinion, that the outing or suicide in October triggered the green light on the article.
 
I am open to being corrected if I have misinterpreted his apology or if I have the timeline confused.
 
I was not on top of the timeline enough to fully appreciate that angle. I doubt (or hope, anyway) that no one involved channeled their inner Jack Chick:  "Aha...suicide AND transgender.....NOW it's a story!"
 
The problem with the suicide being the catalyst is the difficulty in talking about it *without* bringing up the transgender situation. Obviously, they can't publish the story months after she died and *not* talk about the suicide. (maybe that confluence leads to "it therefore must be spiked"?)
 
I would love to see a roundtable of Gary Smiths or Alec Wilkinsons to see their takes on this. I am sure they have faced comparable situations.
 

Alcohol&Overcalls

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smastroyin said:
 
My point was vague and I didn't link, but several of the blog stories about this incident implicitly state that due to her transgender, Dr. V had a heightened right to privacy.  
 
 
I think the boingboing article is somewhat poorly stated, but doesn't it seem the issue is that trans individuals have the same expectation of privacy (that is, staying out of their personal gender identity, as we implicitly do with cis individuals), and that it's perhaps easier to tromp that expectation and out them "by accident"?
 
I don't think it's a heightened right to privacy, but rather a different (and perhaps lower) bar to clear to violate that right, if that makes sense. Or is that a distinction without difference?
 

fairlee76

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The Allented Mr Ripley said:
 
I don't have a problem with this. She put her credentials out there as part of her business efforts, her science background was what separated her from her competitors and it's what made her putter the best one on the market (supposedly).
 
The rest is certainly questionable. I think that's what makes the reaction to the article so divisive.
Yeah.  That was poorly worded on my part.  As a journalist, it was not up to him to keep her false credentials a secret.  As a fellow member of the human race, it was up to him to leave her private life private.
 
And, yeah, pretty amazing that an article about a gimmicky putter morphed into this tale of tragedy and intrigue.
 

singaporesoxfan

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I think there's a fascinating story about the obsession with science among the people who buy golf clubs, and how so much of it depends on scientific credentials even though you would think you could determine what worked best by actually just trying clubs out. And therefore why an outsider who made a good club had to falsify a scientific background. Or, alternately, how so much of what makes a good club depends on belief. Sadly, that was not the way the story was written.

Also, seeing how much changing attitudes on gay marriage have been attributed to younger people being more aware of gay issues, it is kind of sad that a younger jounalist was so unaware of transgender issues.