Caleb Hannan and the question of ethical journalism

E5 Yaz

Transcends message boarding
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Apr 25, 2002
67,853
Oregon
Sorry if this has been answered, but it never occurred to Simmons et al. to have someone from the transgendered community read the article ... when the Grantland people are paid through the same entity as Christina Kahrl?
 
How stupid do these people have to be?
 

yep

Member
SoSH Member
Feb 3, 2006
2,465
Red Sox Natin
Apologies in advance if I this has been answered, but do we know clearly whether the investigation really started as verification of scientific credentials, versus personal history/dirt-digging?
 
Because my read of the original article makes it kinda ambiguous, and I think it matters from a kind of "fruit of the poisoned tree" perspective. 
 
Specifically, I think if the credentials of the inventor were pushed front-and-center, e.g., in prominent marketing or product claims or something, then I think it's reasonable for a journalist to tug at those threads and see what unravels. But if the educational/background/credential claims were only incidental or casual mentions, then I think the clear stipulation made at the beginning (cover the science, not the scientist) should probably govern. 
 
It is difficult to disentangle from the special complexities of transgender identities, but as a crude attempt, I might suggest an analogy of, say, an entrepreneur who lied about something embarrassing or sensitive in their family history: a child who committed suicide, for example... If the lie was a casual and incidental statement on background in a discussion about golf clubs, then I don't think it creates justification in and of itself for voyeuristic investigation into the life of private citizens. But if, for example, the family history and happy children of the inventor are depicted in the commercials and on the box, and promoted as part of the reason for the product's appeal, then I think it is harder to say that the journalist has an obligation to stop investigating...
 
My read is that the background investigation stuff began as a kind of murky and unseemly curiosity about "Who is this Dr. V?", after specifically agreeing that reporting on the "scientist" was off-limits, and that her claims of a background in science are being used as the justification for breaking faith on that point. I think a difficult and messy, but important question is whether/how much the investigation was really driven by a genuine journalistic effort to verify relevant public-facing claims about the product itself. 
 
I feel like it kinda comes down to: did Dr. V purposely make her fake credentials part of the product's story? Or were the credentials and degrees and so on just incidental to the kind of personal identity and public-facing narrative that transgender people create almost of necessity? 
 
Very sad story, in any case.
 

joe dokes

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 18, 2005
19,361
E5 Yaz said:
Sorry if this has been answered, but it never occurred to Simmons et al. to have someone from the transgendered community read the article ... when the Grantland people are paid through the same entity as Christina Kahrl?
 
How stupid do these people have to be?
 
 
In his apologia, Simmons copped to that stupidity. But he stopped short of saying what I think really happened:  he saw the re-done story and said, "a fraud AND she was a man AND she committed suicide.?  What a story.  That's perfect!"  He sort of implied it.  At the risk of too much armchair psychology, Simmons's non-sports worldview seems shaped by TV shows, movies, and living in LA.  Through the prism of those make-believe worlds, it *was* a great story.  But it wasn't make-believe.  As I said up thread, I think his failure was much less benign ("ohhh, I shoulda known") then it was affirmative ("What a great hook!").  Whe he said, "this isn't ready yet," he wasn't talking about journalism (sources, verification, ethics, etc.),  he was talking Hollywood, bay-bee!
 
is it reaching too much to think that his utter inability to grasp the possibility of human-being issues here comes from the fact that his 'journalism" career never really involved talking to people, only about them? 
 

PBDWake

Member
SoSH Member
May 1, 2008
3,679
Peabody, MA
I think assigning that to him might be a bridge too far. But you're right in that it's just plain clear he doesn't get it, and in my opinion, still doesn't. He's a frat boy in arrested development.

In his apology, he mentions how the "chill running down his spine" comment was misinterpreted, and it should have been read as "Is this getting even stranger?". Well, great. But guess what? You're still assigning "strange" as the adjective for trans*. Not really a marked improvement.

And while he acknowledges that Caleb shouldn't have outed Dr V, he defends Caleb and Grantland by stating that Caleb never threatened to out her. But he never follows up by addressing the fact that it was a valid concern considering he had already. Or that when she accused him of being about to commit a hate crime, was there any assurance her status as trans wouldn't come up? I mean, it seems like he understands what they all did was wrong, but it's very difficult for him to understand where he went wrong and why.
 

Dalton Jones

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Nov 24, 2001
1,410
Bill Simmons has spent a career cultivating a fratboy mentality and marketing it to millions of other fratboys (myself included), so it's no surprise that his shallowness should rise up and bite him in the ass.
 

Van Everyman

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2009
19,681
Newton
People are concocting wild theories and drawing largely unfair conclusions about motivations -- that Hannen would drive a person to suicide to get a story, that Simmons is one step short of a date rapist. I think the simplest explanation is that transgender issues are still poorly understood and that as a result Hannen, Simmons and the editorial team erroneously concluded that Dr. V being transgender was part of her deception.

I honestly think it comes down to that. As someone said upthread I believe, all bigots are ignorant but not all who are ignorant are bigoted.
 

Reverend

for king and country
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Jan 20, 2007
45,086
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. 
 
Well, in the same vein, is the mental illness evidence or a likely contributing factor to the fraud? Or would it be invoked just because people find mental illness weird and distasteful. I mean, can you imagine the author taking the approach of: And then I discovered she had once attempted suicide. A chill went up my spine. Did she perhaps not really want to be alive, even as she presents herself as a living person? What else might be part of this web of deceit??
 
 

 

 
 

 
curly2 said:
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. 

 
E5 Yaz said:
Sorry if this has been answered, but it never occurred to Simmons et al. to have someone from the transgendered community read the article ... when the Grantland people are paid through the same entity as Christina Kahrl?
 
How stupid do these people have to be?
 
She's not just a member of the community, she's on the frickin' board of directors of GLAAD for chrissakes.
 

This actually matters as it means that her role and sense of responsibility to the issue would make it more appropriate to run such a piece by her without it just seeming like an "ask the native" kind of thing, as the expression goes (or used to).
 

 
curly2 said:
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.
 
This is a really good comp. As I posted before, I am sympathetic to the problem of people not being in the know and not knowing what they don't know--and in that vein, I've been very impressed with some posters here being very forthright about what they now realize they didn't know, had never had occasion to consider, and eagerness to education themselves.
 
But as a journalist especially, you have to know when you're out of your element. And as per above, Simmons probably has Kahrl in his list of contacts in his work email client.
 

Reverend

for king and country
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Jan 20, 2007
45,086
Holy shit. On a lark, I wondered about something and googled it and, well, ESPN has actually fucked this up before already:
 
That link goes to a Huffington Post story where they show interview of an interview with Kye Allums, a former DI basketball player who is a member of the trans community that ESPN did a story on, but then he found out the day before the video was going to air they had old pictures of him, his old name, and he asked them not to and they aired the video anyway and that he thought about killing himself the whole next week.
 
I don't know all the details and googling it is a pain in the ass right now for obvious reasons, but if this is true, GJGE ESPN.
 

Dehere

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 25, 2010
3,143
Excellent story in the Arizona Republic today in which Vanderbilt's partner speaks on the record.

In one particularly nuanced and frank comment she blames the Grantland story for 90% of the timing of Vanderbilt's suicide but not for the suicide itself.

The whole article is carefully crafted and the closing is especially well chosen. Really good work. Linking to the URL on my phone so apologies if I've done this wrong.

http://www.azcentral.com/community/gilbert/articles/20140124gilbert-golf-inventor-suicide-website-essay-anne-vanderbilt.html
 

joe dokes

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 18, 2005
19,361
Van Everyman said:
People are concocting wild theories and drawing largely unfair conclusions about motivations -- that Hannen would drive a person to suicide to get a story, that Simmons is one step short of a date rapist. I think the simplest explanation is that transgender issues are still poorly understood and that as a result Hannen, Simmons and the editorial team erroneously concluded that Dr. V being transgender was part of her deception.

I honestly think it comes down to that. As someone said upthread I believe, all bigots are ignorant but not all who are ignorant are bigoted.
 
I dont think anyone is ascribing those motives to Hannan or those qualities to Simmons. Hannan was, at best, ignorant/stupid/inexperienced (the latter leading to his "promise" early in the process) and probably thought that her being transgender *was* another deceptive act. I don't have any sense of whether Simmons shared that specific view (i.e., transgender=deception).  Simmons just thought it as a "cool story" that would generate interest. I dont think he even thinks at the level of whether the "deception" angle is valid. He just isn't that deep a thinker.  As long as it's "interesting," it gets a green light from Hollywood Bill.  That doesn't make him evil. But it should give Disney pause to have a guy that shallow makng decisions on whether to run putatively "serious" stuff under their name.
 
The whole article is carefully crafted and the closing is especially well chosen. Really good work. Linking to the URL on my phone so apologies if I've done this wrong.
http://www.azcentral...vanderbilt.html


 
 
 
It is all of that. Thanks for passing that along.
 
Reverend said:
Holy shit. On a lark, I wondered about something and googled it and, well, ESPN has actually fucked this up before already:
 
[snip]
 
Not that you were necessarily connecting these dots yourself, but I think it's a stretch to lump Grantland and Outside the Lines together in this context. Their editorial structures and reporting lines are so different, I'm not sure it's fair to assume that the lessons of the first mistake should have been absorbed by the team that made the second mistake just because both are branded "ESPN" (even if the similarities between the two situations are striking). That said, given that Simmons' name is attached to this mistake and its visibility far outweighs that of the first incident - which I don't think involved an actual suicide - I'd certainly hope this sort of mistake would never happen again anywhere under the ESPN umbrella.
 
On a separate note, while I agree that "deep thinker" isn't a label I'd automatically apply to Simmons, I also think he's much smarter that he often lets on in print, and that he plays up the frat-boy element of his persona to appeal to his "Yup, these are my readers" audience. I mean, he has helped successfully push boundaries in sportswriting, podcasting (audio and video) and documentary filmmaking, and he's now launched a hugely successful journalism-based website - he clearly has some sense of vision and market awareness and isn't just in thrall to the idea that cool = newsworthy. I would rather assume he's a smart guy in many ways who made some fundamental mistakes about transgendered reporting/editing but then wrote a very thorough explanation and apology of how those mistakes came to be made which should be taken at face value. I don't know if anyone else saw Andrew Sullivan's reaction to Simmons' apology...
 
http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/01/21/quote-for-the-day-307/
 
...but Sullivan - himself no stranger to GLAAD - was quite fulsome in praising Simmons' piece. Money quote (after an initial moment of introspective criticism): "I’m struck by the thoroughness and integrity of the public accounting and the sincerity of the apology. I think it’s way better than would have once happened in legacy media. Because it’s personal and real."
 

Reverend

for king and country
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Jan 20, 2007
45,086
ConigliarosPotential said:
 
Not that you were necessarily connecting these dots yourself, but I think it's a stretch to lump Grantland and Outside the Lines together in this context. Their editorial structures and reporting lines are so different, I'm not sure it's fair to assume that the lessons of the first mistake should have been absorbed by the team that made the second mistake just because both are branded "ESPN" (even if the similarities between the two situations are striking). That said, given that Simmons' name is attached to this mistake and its visibility far outweighs that of the first incident - which I don't think involved an actual suicide - I'd certainly hope this sort of mistake would never happen again anywhere under the ESPN umbrella.
 
I agree in principle, so I should be clearer about what I meant by a lark. I forget what exactly terms I used, but basically I googled "ESPN transgender" or something like that and knocked out any results from the last month or so to see if anything like this had ever come up before.
 
There's actually all kinds of stuff on the trans issue and sports the last number of years. I wasn't suggesting that they remember some kind of memo that might have been kicking around in the wake of the Outside the Lines thing but rather that if your going to do a story like this--or really any kind of long form story--you're supposed to educate yourself about every issue that is a facet of the story. In deciding that Dr. V's gender identity was such an issue, it was behooved Hannan to give himself at least a cursory edumacation on the issue; as curly2 said, would they have run a piece on injuries without consulting a doctor? To me, that's the telling part of the failure--it didn't occur to them that this was an issue that there was more to understand about. I think the last paragraph in Kahrl's piece really speaks to this as well.
 

EvilEmpire

paying for his sins
Staff member
Dope
Gold Supporter
Apr 9, 2007
12,076
Washington
ConigliarosPotential said:
On a separate note, while I agree that "deep thinker" isn't a label I'd automatically apply to Simmons, I also think he's much smarter that he often lets on in print, and that he plays up the frat-boy element of his persona to appeal to his "Yup, these are my readers" audience. I mean, he has helped successfully push boundaries in sportswriting, podcasting (audio and video) and documentary filmmaking, and he's now launched a hugely successful journalism-based website - he clearly has some sense of vision and market awareness and isn't just in thrall to the idea that cool = newsworthy. I would rather assume he's a smart guy in many ways who made some fundamental mistakes about transgendered reporting/editing but then wrote a very thorough explanation and apology of how those mistakes came to be made which should be taken at face value.
I know I'm cynical, but I also think Simmons is a pretty sharp guy -- smart enough to run the story, generate attention, generate some good discussion, tie it all up with an apology that says the right things, demonstrate that he learned a lesson, and extend the story a bit more.

It wasn't a story he wanted until after the suicide. I think he ran with it knowing what the response could be and already had a gameplan mapped out for how they could handle it in a way that advanced the discussion and lessons learned.

If he would have run the whole thing through Kahrl first, just to get her opinion, he might have have lost that opportunity. Better to go to her afterward.
 

Myt1

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Mar 13, 2006
31,140
South Boston
E5 Yaz said:
Sorry if this has been answered, but it never occurred to Simmons et al. to have someone from the transgendered community read the article ... when the Grantland people are paid through the same entity as Christina Kahrl?
 
How stupid do these people have to be?
I can actually see not doing this for a pretty defensible reason although it's obviously not the "it never occurred to us" defense they're presenting.

"Hey, Christina, we have a lying TG person at issue in this article and you're our resident expert" seems pretty reductive.

Thanks for this thread everyone.
 

Mystic Merlin

Member
SoSH Member
Sep 21, 2007
35,129
Hartford, CT
EvilEmpire said:
I know I'm cynical, but I also think Simmons is a pretty sharp guy -- smart enough to run the story, generate attention, generate some good discussion, tie it all up with an apology that says the right things, demonstrate that he learned a lesson, and extend the story a bit more.

It wasn't a story he wanted until after the suicide. I think he ran with it knowing what the response could be and already had a gameplan mapped out for how they could handle it in a way that advanced the discussion and lessons learned.

If he would have run the whole thing through Kahrl first, just to get her opinion, he might have have lost that opportunity. Better to go to her afterward.
I would be stunned if Simmons was this conniving.
 

EvilEmpire

paying for his sins
Staff member
Dope
Gold Supporter
Apr 9, 2007
12,076
Washington
Mystic Merlin said:
I would be stunned if Simmons was this conniving.
I just don't buy that he would approve that story without understanding that it could be controversial and draw criticism. Transgender? Suicide? Those words scream the potential for controversy. Once I accepted that assumption as plausible, assessing that he would have a gameplan thought out for how to deal with it isn't much of a stretch.

Obviously, another assumption I made is that he is in fact a pretty smart guy and very in tune with popular culture and media.

If he did, maybe he rationalized it as an opportunity to have a conversation, and that such could be a good thing. I have no idea. I'm usually an Occam's razor sort of guy when it comes to any kind of analysis, but this whole thing just hangs together wrong to me somehow.
 

mauf

Anderson Cooper × Mr. Rogers
Staff member
Dope
I had heard a bit about this controversy, but hadn't made time to read the article until today. A lot of the invective aimed at Grantland rubbed me the wrong way, and I was fully prepared to take Lannan's side.

But wow, that's a terrible article.

Seriously, what's left of that story if you strip away the trans issue? A notorious knucklehead (Gary McCord) really liked a putter that was designed by a person who lied about having two college degrees and appeared to be mentally unstable. Some random PGA tour pro used the putter too, but he didn't putt exceptionally well with it. Some random rich guy in Pittsburgh might or might not have lost money on the venture.

You're telling me Grantland would run a story like that? No way. That story might be too boring for Golf Digest.

I can't help but wonder if the extensive pre-publication review of this story had more to do with liability concerns than editorial concerns. It certainly would explain why an article that was deemed incomplete before V's death was deemed good enough to publish now.
 

Brand Name

make hers mark
Staff member
Dope
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Oct 6, 2010
3,360
The Land of Thomas Cecil
Okay, preface: I'm MTF (read: female), too, university student, basically nobody but family and my doctor knows my past, for my mental sanity. Not to go all V&N here, but I'm basically open for any questions on the topic, from here, PM, etc.-I trust this forum to be awesome about it, as it is about basically everything else. If Nip or anyone wants to move that elsewhere, a-OK by me. Merely skimmed through the thread, to know some board perspectives, to let me know if I'd feel safe sharing this here. I do.
 
This starts off okay, but most offensive stories, aside from Shank headlines, do this as well. First thing I found disturbing is that, given Dr. V's willingness talk merely about the putter, and not herself, what made this premise okay? You breech a harmless individual's sense to privacy in that sense, and that in my case is huge. If someone went against my word and wrote an article like this about my medical status, I would be so furious, yet so down all at the same time, I wouldn't know what to do with myself. It would hurt that much. To put it into simple terms, imagine every negative emotion you've ever had. Be it anger, confusion, resentment, self-loathing, etc. Then put all those emotions, feelings into one ball of hate, but that one ball of hate impacts your emotional state (like a massive depression), and how you view yourself, both intra and interpersonally. And that becomes you, and you are embarrassed by that hate, that not only could those emotions remain within you, but they may externally come to you, by means of others. This is all from breaking this story alone, that you certainly wouldn't be made public. Heck, it's not only personally painful, but quite a few people see you as less for it, like you have a serious sexual perversion, or that you have big mental issues that impact your capacity, ability to function otherwise.
 
And then there's this: 
 


“Are you trying to tell me that Essay Anne Vanderbilt was once a man?”
 
Oh God, fuck no, fuck that question, fuck that quote, fuck you Hannan. I hope you read this, you scumbag. I get how someone would think this, since a lot of people if I told them would think I'm simply a gay man with a fetish, or couldn't own up to being gay. This is wrong on so many levels. I was never a man (or a boy, a few years ago), never. My body may have been that way, and still is (with great pains to say so) in some ways today, but I always knew since I was 3 that I was female. I can't speak to everyone's experience, but this is an ignorant quote that should have been at minimum paraphrased to something more appropriate, and respectful of Dr. V.
 
 


She was born a boy on July 12, 1953, in Philadelphia. She was given the name Stephen Krol
 
Oh my god. Just oh my god. This is ignorant. If this was ever published about me, I would be in TEARS, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't live the night. I never wanted anyone to know the name I was assigned at birth, I only wanted them knowing me as Jessica (or any of the names that go with Jessica, like Jessie, or Jess). This basically is the worst thing you can do to someone like me. It invalidates their struggles, pain, and joy they've found during the life they've experienced, only to go back to square one of everyone knowing their past. Not only is that harder internally, but it hurts externally when people do not recognize you. It is mocking decades long pain. I cannot believe I am reading this in 2014.
 
Further, when Hannan uses the birthname beyond this point, it starts getting into media ethical violations that have been mentioned upthread (and I think in place for 8 years now), as seen in the quote "What little else I know about Stephen Krol". Much shorter to type Dr. V, and that is her applicable name for this story. Use it. The next paragraph goes beyond the TS (transsexual) concerns; detailing an individual's past suicide attempts, seemingly without their permission, is absolutely unacceptable, as has been mentioned. On what grounds does this add to the story, except to make things harder for Dr. V? 
 
Back to the TS issues, though, to say she "faked" the credentials, no, not really, she was giving what she had to do in order to live. Her putter did not change, and was equally a good club, regardless of this. Then he mentions her past to someone feeling attracted to her in the miniskirt. Great, so now Hannan felt the needed to sabotage a potential relationship for her. Because her life likely wasn't hard enough. Wow. I am disgusted, and feel lessened as a woman, and as a person for having read that nonsense, but I am glad I did it to (hopefully) benefit the site with my experiences to compare how OUTRAGEOUS and heinous these actions were.
 
I deeply apologize if this doesn't make sense, it's a dear subject to me as well, and sometimes feelings like this that aren't all that common, we lack the best of words for, so I have to make do with what we have, you know? I also realize you all want to talk about this subject from the journalist, non-TS (transsexual) perspective, which, yeah, I get that, it's the media section after all--but this one, I have to go personal with, because I feel it's what I can add best, and perhaps some perspective. 
 
Jessie
 

Spacemans Bong

chapeau rose
SoSH Member
Myt1 said:
I can actually see not doing this for a pretty defensible reason although it's obviously not the "it never occurred to us" defense they're presenting.

"Hey, Christina, we have a lying TG person at issue in this article and you're our resident expert" seems pretty reductive.

Thanks for this thread everyone.
 
 
That's Simmons's mistake though. Kahrl gave an interview to Montreal radio this week in which she said she was comfortable being "the trans expert" at ESPN. She also confirmed Simmons and her know each other, and that one of her first reactions to reading the article was that she was sad Simmons never bothered to consult her.
 

Spacemans Bong

chapeau rose
SoSH Member
 
Back to the TS issues, though, to say she "faked" the credentials, no, not really, she was giving what she had to do in order to live. Her putter did not change, and was equally a good club, regardless of this.
 
Wait, what? As I'm reading this, you seem to think it's OK for Dr. V to have completely fabricated her education and employment history in order to better transition as a woman.
 
I disagree - she could come up with any name she wanted to and I think people would understand massaging some details in order to become more untraceable so people like Hannah wouldn't out her. But her pitch was based in large part on her completely bogus credentials as a rocket scientist. If she decided to pitch her putter as the product of an ex-mechanic, nobody's investing in it even if it is a good putter.
 

PBDWake

Member
SoSH Member
May 1, 2008
3,679
Peabody, MA
I agree. It states in the article things such as her telling investors that as part of the Vanderbilt family, she was close to the Hilton family and could guarantee the club would be sold in Hilton Hotels. There are plenty of more humble beginnings that she could have used and been understandable, but she sold her club on the backbone of her knowing better because of that background- at least as Hannan told us. That, for me, is the most under-ratedly frustrating part of the article.

He was so eager to out her as a "fraud" (and some of it should be fair game) that lost in the shuffle is the actual science. Sure, he has a throwaway paragraph towards the end about how he has one scientist that agrees, but it's not expanded on. It's left up in the air for me whether the club was actually junk science by someone who faked credentials to get money out of investors, or the real thing that someone (not the first) thought she had to fake a highlight reel background to find a voice for it. If the author were actually trying to paint a full picture of Dr V, it was owed to her to try and settle the point on this as definitively as he could.
 

yep

Member
SoSH Member
Feb 3, 2006
2,465
Red Sox Natin
Spacemans Bong said:
 
Wait, what? As I'm reading this, you seem to think it's OK for Dr. V to have completely fabricated her education and employment history in order to better transition as a woman.
 
I disagree - she could come up with any name she wanted to and I think people would understand massaging some details in order to become more untraceable so people like Hannah wouldn't out her. But her pitch was based in large part on her completely bogus credentials as a rocket scientist. If she decided to pitch her putter as the product of an ex-mechanic, nobody's investing in it even if it is a good putter.
 
I want to be really careful with this, because it's a nuanced question that sounds deceptively clear-cut, but do we actually know that the bolded is true? The current incarnation of the product website and marketing materials plays up the science-y product claims, but does not push any front-and-center message about "invented by a rocket scientist" or anything like that. I have no idea whether it has been changed.
 
I am of two minds on this question, and I think the ethical dilemma hinges mostly on whether Dr V did, as you suggest, genuinely make her fictional past a significant part of the putter's story.
 
I think both DJJ and Christina Kahrl raise very fair points about the special difficulties faced by transgender people. To some degree, a doctored past is almost a kind of necessity, and certainly there is no place for outing people in an article about golf clubs. But this wasn't really an article about golf clubs, it was an article about Dr. V; one which had a special burden of discretion because of the explicit stipulation and condition of reporting on the "science, not the scientist". Dr V's chosen backstory as a top-secret government scientist and chosen name were... noteworthy, if that's the right word. For good reasons or bad, she did not re-frame her past as something humdrum and closely overlapping reality, she instead chose a rather exotic and memorable past to represent as her own (not to mention fake credentials). All of which does not in any way make it okay to gratuitously or salaciously out private citizens who are just trying to get on in the world, but it might go to the question of whether the outing was actually gratuitous/salacious. 
 
Ethical guidelines for reporting on people's personal lives are, I believe, heavily influenced by the degree to which the subject is a "public figure". Which is sensible and fair, I think. And I don't think that people who make golf clubs are automatically "public figures". What is unclear to me is whether/to what degree Dr V publicly promoted her fictional background and credentials as part of the product's story. It seems like the answer to that question is "very little, if at all", but I might be wrong. This is where the nuance lives, and I feel like I'm hearing people working from two different sets of facts.
 

mauf

Anderson Cooper × Mr. Rogers
Staff member
Dope
Obviously, the most important part of DJJ's post was the sharing of her personal experience, and I'm deeply grateful for the time and energy she poured into that. Thank you.
 
I agree with SB and PBD, however, when it comes to Dr. V's misrepresentations. Maybe it shouldn't matter whether someone got a degree from Harvard, but it does to a lot of people, and while lying about that stuff to a journalist is no crime, lying to investors about it is fraud. The things she said about family connections are even more obviously out of bounds. And none of these outrageous lies were compelled by her understandable decision to make a clean break from her former life.
 
To give Dr. V a pass for such behavior based on her gender identity is to suggest that transgendered people shouldn't be held to the same standards of moral and ethical behavior as cisgendered people, and that's wrong. 
 

Average Reds

Dope
Staff member
Dope
V&N Mod
SoSH Member
Sep 24, 2007
31,050
Southwestern CT
PBDWake said:
I agree. It states in the article things such as her telling investors that as part of the Vanderbilt family, she was close to the Hilton family and could guarantee the club would be sold in Hilton Hotels. There are plenty of more humble beginnings that she could have used and been understandable, but she sold her club on the backbone of her knowing better because of that background- at least as Hannan told us. That, for me, is the most under-ratedly frustrating part of the article.

He was so eager to out her as a "fraud" (and some of it should be fair game) that lost in the shuffle is the actual science. Sure, he has a throwaway paragraph towards the end about how he has one scientist that agrees, but it's not expanded on. It's left up in the air for me whether the club was actually junk science by someone who faked credentials to get money out of investors, or the real thing that someone (not the first) thought she had to fake a highlight reel background to find a voice for it. If the author were actually trying to paint a full picture of Dr V, it was owed to her to try and settle the point on this as definitively as he could.
 
This is not a question for me.  It's junk science and it's not close.
 
Every golf manufacturer has scientists - real scientists - and they all think that the way to make a putter that is more forgiving and generates a truer roll is to maximize the MOI of the clubhead.  Dr. V comes along and claims that she is the only one who understands that the truth is the opposite - that you need an MOI of zero to give the purest roll.  Her claim is received incredulously by those in the industry, but her credentials appeared to be solid and so people gave her the benefit of the doubt.
 
Add to this the fact that golfers are the biggest suckers in the world for technology and you have a ready made market of people wanting to be conned.  And the things about it is that her putter will help people when they first pick it up because the placebo effect is very real in golf and has been measured - golfers do hit new clubs significantly farther/straighter/more purely than they do their old clubs.  Not because the new clubs are better, but because you are able to convince yourself they are better and you swing more confidently and freely, which improves your contact.  (This has been shown to be true even for putters.)  But over time the placebo effect wears off and you are left with your old swing and the same old problems you had before.
 
This is why pros were willing to try Dr. V's putter and even rave about it.  Because the definitive "science" behind the radical new design of a zero MOI putter convinced them this might be a breakthrough. 
 
Of course, the reality is that a zero MOI putter can give you a pure roll when you hit it right on the sweet spot, but it leaves no margin for error and so over time you will perform much worse with a putter like that.  It was junk science from a junk scientist.
 
None of this justifies treating Dr. V's transgender status as part of the fraud the way Hannan did.
 

Average Reds

Dope
Staff member
Dope
V&N Mod
SoSH Member
Sep 24, 2007
31,050
Southwestern CT
yep said:
 
I want to be really careful with this, because it's a nuanced question that sounds deceptively clear-cut, but do we actually know that the bolded is true? The current incarnation of the product website and marketing materials plays up the science-y product claims, but does not push any front-and-center message about "invented by a rocket scientist" or anything like that. I have no idea whether it has been changed.
 
If anything Hannen reported about the club itself and his interactions with McCord are accurate, then the science was everything.
 
Given what has come out about Dr. V credentials, I think it's fair to assume that the web site has been changed.
 

Reverend

for king and country
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Jan 20, 2007
45,086
Average Reds said:
 
This is not a question for me.  It's junk science and it's not close.
 
Every golf manufacturer has scientists - real scientists - and they all think that the way to make a putter that is more forgiving and generates a truer roll is to maximize the MOI of the clubhead.  Dr. V comes along and claims that she is the only one who understands that the truth is the opposite - that you need an MOI of zero to give the purest roll.  Her claim is received incredulously by those in the industry, but her credentials appeared to be solid and so people gave her the benefit of the doubt.
 
I subscribe to the theory of Intelligent Rolling.
 

yep

Member
SoSH Member
Feb 3, 2006
2,465
Red Sox Natin
Average Reds said:
 
If anything Hannen reported about the club itself and his interactions with McCord are accurate, then the science was everything.
 
Given what has come out about Dr. V credentials, I think it's fair to assume that the web site has been changed.
 
That a company used "junk science" in its marketing claims is not, I think, justification for airing the founder's personal life. In fact I'm pretty sure that it's contrary to scientific method to use sexual history as means to debunk physics. 
 
I don't think we can give blanket protection that says, "if a company makes sciencey-sounding claims, then it's fair game to see if their scientists are fags". What I see of the actual public-facing marketing materials, and of the actual reported history, is that the public front of the company was technical info or actual "science" (maybe "actual science" of the junk variety), not the personal story of the "scientist" behind it. Maybe this is too fine a distinction for the internet, but I think it matters whether it was Dr V, or Caleb Hannan who first decided that the story of the golf club was actually the story of Dr V, mysterious scientist. 
 
If your assumption that the marketing or public face of Yar Golf has changed, and that it formerly featured Dr V's story or credentials prominently, then I agree that it's too high a bar to say that reporters cannot follow the story. But (and I may be wrong on this), it looks to me like that's not the case. From what I see, Yar Golf in fact did/does focus on the technical and sciencey gobbledygook, and that Dr V's public-facing role was small-to-nonexistant.
 
Whether the science/marketing itself had any merit is irrelevant to whether her sexual history was fair game for reporting.
 

Average Reds

Dope
Staff member
Dope
V&N Mod
SoSH Member
Sep 24, 2007
31,050
Southwestern CT
yep said:
 
That a company used "junk science" in its marketing claims is not, I think, justification for airing the founder's personal life. In fact I'm pretty sure that it's contrary to scientific method to use sexual history as means to debunk physics. 
 
I don't think we can give blanket protection that says, "if a company makes sciencey-sounding claims, then it's fair game to see if their scientists are fags". What I see of the actual public-facing marketing materials, and of the actual reported history, is that the public front of the company was technical info or actual "science" (maybe "actual science" of the junk variety), not the personal story of the "scientist" behind it. Maybe this is too fine a distinction for the internet, but I think it matters whether it was Dr V, or Caleb Hannan who first decided that the story of the golf club was actually the story of Dr V, mysterious scientist. 
 
If your assumption that the marketing or public face of Yar Golf has changed, and that it formerly featured Dr V's story or credentials prominently, then I agree that it's too high a bar to say that reporters cannot follow the story. But (and I may be wrong on this), it looks to me like that's not the case. From what I see, Yar Golf in fact did/does focus on the technical and sciencey gobbledygook, and that Dr V's public-facing role was small-to-nonexistant.
 
Whether the science/marketing itself had any merit is irrelevant to whether her sexual history was fair game for reporting.
 
Please show me where I tried to justify airing the founder's personal life.
 
When you finish looking and you realize that I never did that, you might look more closely at the post I made right above my response to you and see this line at the end of it.
 
 
None of this justifies treating Dr. V's transgender status as part of the fraud the way Hannan did.
 
In short, go fuck yourself you dishonest, self-righteous prick.
 

yep

Member
SoSH Member
Feb 3, 2006
2,465
Red Sox Natin
Average Reds said:
 
Please show me where I tried to justify airing the founder's personal life.
 
When you finish looking and you realize that I never did that, you might look more closely at the post I made right above my response to you and see this line at the end of it.
 
 
In short, go fuck yourself you dishonest, self-righteous prick.
 
Good God, man. Please show me where I accused you of anything. When you finish looking and realize that I never did that, you might be a happier person. 
 
God bless and keep you. 
 

joe dokes

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 18, 2005
19,361
Spacemans Bong said:
 
 
That's Simmons's mistake though. Kahrl gave an interview to Montreal radio this week in which she said she was comfortable being "the trans expert" at ESPN. She also confirmed Simmons and her know each other, and that one of her first reactions to reading the article was that she was sad Simmons never bothered to consult her.
 
I wonder what the result would be if Kahrl said in such a meeting:
 
1--Equating her transgender with business fraud and deception is simply wrong and abhorrent;
2--Even if you fix that connection, outing her is likely to cause very serious emotional injury;
 
 
Does Simmons spike the story?
Does he say, "we'll drop the 'deception' comparison, but we can't tell the story without explaining why we can't find academic records; if she wanted to remain private, she shouldn't have put herself in a position where people might check out her bona fides. This is a great story.  We'll fix it, but we'll run it."
 

kenneycb

Hates Goose Island Beer; Loves Backdoor Play
SoSH Member
Dec 2, 2006
13,657
Tuukka's refugee camp
You've harped on the running of the article point after a hypothetical meeting about 10 times already in the thread (at least 3 times on this page) when the reality is simply that I don't know if he would, you don't know if he would and nobody else knows if he would.  Everything said after the fact is disingenuous in light of the controversy that has arisen surrounding the article.
 

Reverend

for king and country
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Jan 20, 2007
45,086
joe dokes said:
 
I wonder what the result would be if Kahrl said in such a meeting:
 
1--Equating her transgender with business fraud and deception is simply wrong and abhorrent;
2--Even if you fix that connection, outing her is likely to cause very serious emotional injury;
 
 
Does Simmons spike the story?
Does he say, "we'll drop the 'deception' comparison, but we can't tell the story without explaining why we can't find academic records; if she wanted to remain private, she shouldn't have put herself in a position where people might check out her bona fides. This is a great story.  We'll fix it, but we'll run it."
 
We'll never know. But as per what some have posted above, there is reason to believe that before the gender issue was introduced, the story wasn't green lighted. That suggests that it may have been green lighted because the gender issues introduced a "scintillation factor" and that's the problem: it shouldn't, i.e. people should stop worrying about that shit. It's like the old joke about the gay issue, "Where I come from, we have a word for people who spend that much time wondering what gender other people want to hook-up with, we call them perverts."
 
My favorite stories about stuff like this comes from one of my old roommates. At senior dinner in college, we were getting trashed and fuck all. So anyway, one of my buddies went to the bathroom and as he was coming back, he was waylaid by a guy who was in the same major (physics [If you know enough theoretical physicists, this becomes a mildly relevant and funny detail.]) who says he needs to tell him something. My buddy tries to blow him off because he wants to get back to getting his drink on, but the guy persists and really insists that it's important he tell him something. Finally, my buddy is like, "FINE. What?" to which the guy says, "Rudy, I'm gay." To which Rudy responds, "[Name], I don't care." To which that guy responds, "Thank you." Now Rudy's intrigued, and the guy briefly explained that he just wanted the first person he came out to to not even be someone who would tell him it was ok, but someone who would simply not give a shit--whom it would have no effect upon. Rudy ended up taking this as a great compliment.
 

Average Reds

Dope
Staff member
Dope
V&N Mod
SoSH Member
Sep 24, 2007
31,050
Southwestern CT
yep said:
 
Good God, man. Please show me where I accused you of anything. When you finish looking and realize that I never did that, you might be a happier person. 
 
God bless and keep you. 
 
 
Nothing in the post you quoted said anything about Dr. V's fraud being a justification for disclosing her transgendered status.  And yet you used it to segue into a snarky rant about how you were "pretty sure that it's contrary to scientific method to use sexual history as means to debunk physics."
 
That's what's known around here as a strawman argument.  And in a thread where emotions have been running high and I have been very careful to be precise, I do not appreciate it at all.
 

yep

Member
SoSH Member
Feb 3, 2006
2,465
Red Sox Natin
Average Reds said:
 
 
Nothing in the post you quoted said anything about Dr. V's fraud being a justification for disclosing her transgendered status.  And yet you used it to segue into a snarky rant about how you were "pretty sure that it's contrary to scientific method to use sexual history as means to debunk physics."...
Sorry, it was not intended as a direct reply/rebuttal to your post, just a launching point for a broad idea, probably a clumsy one on my part.

To put a finer point on it, and where I think there might be difference almost opposite what you thought I was getting at: I actually think it might have been ethically okay to run with a story like this, if Dr V had been using her fictional story and credentials as a prominent and public way to sell golf clubs. Hence my wondering whether the website/marketing has changed.

I hate using hypotheticals with such a sensitive topic, but let's say, for example, that a reporter found out that, say, James Sokolove was not a licensed attorney, and was also a transgendered person who had been living as a female waitress prior to launching his legal commercials... I think that would be fair game, in a way that I do not think would be the case if, say, the lead programmer of Twitter turned out to be a trans person who had falsified her computer science credentials.

I can't tell from anything I've read whether Dr V was Jim Sokolove or just a low-profile business exec with a mostly-irrelevant secret. But it seems more like the latter than the former, and I think that's what makes it wrong.

Edit: to clarify, when I talk about okay/not okay, I mean in the broad sense of when/if it is okay to out a stealth trans person, not re: the particulars of how this story was written/handled.
 

PBDWake

Member
SoSH Member
May 1, 2008
3,679
Peabody, MA
yep said:
Sorry, it was not intended as a direct reply/rebuttal to your post, just a launching point for a broad idea, probably a clumsy one on my part.

To put a finer point on it, and where I think there might be difference almost opposite what you thought I was getting at: I actually think it might have been ethically okay to run with a story like this, if Dr V had been using her fictional story and credentials as a prominent and public way to sell golf clubs. Hence my wondering whether the website/marketing has changed.

I hate using hypotheticals with such a sensitive topic, but let's say, for example, that a reporter found out that, say, James Sokolove was not a licensed attorney, and was also a transgendered person who had been living as a female waitress prior to launching his legal commercials... I think that would be fair game, in a way that I do not think would be the case if, say, the lead programmer of Twitter turned out to be a trans person who had falsified her computer science credentials.

I can't tell from anything I've read whether Dr V was Jim Sokolove or just a low-profile business exec with a mostly-irrelevant secret. But it seems more like the latter than the former, and I think that's what makes it wrong.
 
Perhaps I can better explain to you why her credentials are fair game.
 
Dr. V's listed credentials were a physics background from MIT, an MBA from the Wharton School of Business, work history at the DoD, and a member of the Vanderbilt family. Using those credentials, Dr. V sought money from other people to fund her company. These people were, ostensibly, not scientists, but were asked to invest in her company. In the absence of knowledge, certain assumptions of competence can be drawn from things degrees from places such as MIT when it comes to matters like physics. Furthermore, the science isn't everything when it comes to running a business. You have to be able to assure people that once you have their money, you have to know how to turn their money and your knowledge into more money. An MBA from Wharton and family connections from the Vanderbilts do this. And if you ever needed to verify her work history, well, having worked for the DoD is an easy way to say "I'm sorry, but my references can't speak to my work history". All of this was used to solicit money from people who knew no better. THAT is why its fair game. 
 
With regards to:


I don't think we can give blanket protection that says, "if a company makes sciencey-sounding claims, then it's fair game to see if their scientists are fags".
In a story about science, the scientist matters. I could present you with a lot of raw data and scientific vocabulary. Chances are, unless you're actually in R&D, even if I'm spouting off legitimate scientific principles, you have no way of knowing if that science is actually a) real, or b) applicable to golf clubs. And when a scientist is telling you that her science, which runs contrary to everything every other scientist in the field has studied and concluded, is the correct method and everything else is wrong? A reporter has to verify why that one scientist is more trustworthy than the field, and that she's qualified to make a statement like that. Nobody here has said that, and I doubt anyone even here things that even Caleb Hannan thought he was checking if Dr V was a "fag", as you put it, when he looked into her credentials. He'd just have been a laughingstock if he wrote a feature for Grantland based on somebody with real expertise in the field's claims. He just went down the reporting rabbit hole, found out too much, and then started making awful choices.
 
So, TLDR version: "Present yourself as an expert who took money from investors? The things you claim make you an expert are fair game to verify. Her gender identity wasn't in that group of factoids. Everyone acknowledges that, everyone agrees it was still wrong to include it in the article"
 

joe dokes

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 18, 2005
19,361
kenneycb said:
You've harped on the running of the article point after a hypothetical meeting about 10 times already in the thread (at least 3 times on this page) when the reality is simply that I don't know if he would, you don't know if he would and nobody else knows if he would.  Everything said after the fact is disingenuous in light of the controversy that has arisen surrounding the article.
 
I think the fact that nobody knows what would have happened was reflected in my use of "I wonder . . .". That said, I wasn't aware the matter had been addressed in the context of a pre-publication Kahrl meeting, so apologies if I've beaten a dead horse. Between this and Remy, I may have confused my moral quagmires..
 
I don't think I share the same meaning of "disingenuous" as you do. I am quite sincere in my wondering.
 

yep

Member
SoSH Member
Feb 3, 2006
2,465
Red Sox Natin
@PBDW, I get that she lied about her background, and probably to investors. I think I probably lied to my boss once or twice, and I may have also lied to friends and familyin my life, possibly even in connection with borrowing money or something. I have definitely lied to impress people, socially and probably professionally as well. I don't believe that those facts about me automatically merit a Grandlant piece, especially since nobody else otherwise knows or cares who I am, and the people I have lied to would probably mostly respond with annoyed indifference to the revelation.

My point is, there are relevant and nontrivial questions of context and degree to the noteworthiness of resume padding and credential-inflating. Dr V dug in with a big spoon when helping herself to an imaginary past, no doubt, but merely listing the flasehoods as isolated claims does not give any sense of the context, weight, prominence, or importance of the claims with regards to anyone who was actually or potentially harmed or deceived. And I hate to argue for double-standards, but I think trans people probably deserve a little more wiggle room than most, in that respect.

A similar need for context and perspective applies to the "science" stuff: This is marketing claims about a golf club we are talking about, not a cure for cancer. Even if we do believe that the technical woowoo surrounding sports equipment should be subject to rigorous evidentiary testing, the background of the scientist should actually NOT matter very much (that's kinda the point of science). If the only thing under question/dispute is the scientifical gobbledygook in the ad copy for a golf club, then getting an actual scientist to confirm or debunk the claims is a lot more productive than a war of duelling credentials.

Now, one very real scenario in which I think Dr V's background absolutely would become relevant and newsworthy, would be if she had become a bona-fide public figure (especially if deliberately), whose credentials and background were an important and/or prominent part of the marketing for the golf club. I don't think lying to her bosses or investors necessarily meets that threshold, nor does being the person who wrote the technical-sounding brochure for a golf club, nor does over-representing her qualifications to a golfer to get him to try her club. (Note I say "necessarily"-- defining a "public figure" is not something I have an algorithmic test for).

Where I depart from the "It was okay to expose her fake credentials, but not her sex change" line espoused by Kahrl and others, is that (and I think everyone knows this), assuming she actually does count as a public figure, exposing her as a professional fraud would have led to the same outcome, and been tatamount to a constructive outing her as trans (because it would have taken like a day for THAT story to come out). I feel like that's weak sauce, like saying "I didn't out him to the Nazis as a Jew, I just observed that he didn't seem to have any papers..."

To me, the ethical quesiton here is something like, having agreed/promised/accepted cooperation based on a story "about the science, not the scientist", at what point does the weirdness of the scientist become newsworthy enough to not only break your word, but also pose some stuff that is clearly going to be extremely disruptive and damaging to that person's personal life? And I think the answer to that question slides in correlation to the degree that the subject has purposely made a public figure of themselves.
 

PBDWake

Member
SoSH Member
May 1, 2008
3,679
Peabody, MA
yep said:
@PBDW, I get that she lied about her background, and probably to investors. I think I probably lied to my boss once or twice, and I may have also lied to friends and familyin my life, possibly even in connection with borrowing money or something. I have definitely lied to impress people, socially and probably professionally as well. I don't believe that those facts about me automatically merit a Grandlant piece, especially since nobody else otherwise knows or cares who I am, and the people I have lied to would probably mostly respond with annoyed indifference to the revelation.

My point is, there are relevant and nontrivial questions of context and degree to the noteworthiness of resume padding and credential-inflating. Dr V dug in with a big spoon when helping herself to an imaginary past, no doubt, but merely listing the flasehoods as isolated claims does not give any sense of the context, weight, prominence, or importance of the claims with regards to anyone who was actually or potentially harmed or deceived. And I hate to argue for double-standards, but I think trans people probably deserve a little more wiggle room than most, in that respect.
I really don't see how this is so difficult for you to understand. This has nothing to do with her being trans. The article may not have been written if she wasn't (though it was developed before they knew), and there is wiggle room that's due on her past, but none of her credentials have any ties to her being trans. Which is why it should not be protected. This wasn't something she fell into. It was something she actively campaigned with.
 
 
A similar need for context and perspective applies to the "science" stuff: This is marketing claims about a golf club we are talking about, not a cure for cancer. Even if we do believe that the technical woowoo surrounding sports equipment should be subject to rigorous evidentiary testing, the background of the scientist should actually NOT matter very much (that's kinda the point of science). If the only thing under question/dispute is the scientifical gobbledygook in the ad copy for a golf club, then getting an actual scientist to confirm or debunk the claims is a lot more productive than a war of duelling credentials.
 
Go on. Please explain to me how you're going to tell an uneducated consumer how to believe one person who says "Science=Y" and another that says "Science=X" without checking and listing credentials, especially when you're unfamiliar with the science yourself. Every criticism we have for Caleb Hannan for not doing his journalistic responsibility in researching trans issues also applies for his responsibility for research into sources.You are also radically underestimating the amount of money in play in the golf equipment field, and the fierce competition for market share.
 
 
Now, one very real scenario in which I think Dr V's background absolutely would become relevant and newsworthy, would be if she had become a bona-fide public figure (especially if deliberately), whose credentials and background were an important and/or prominent part of the marketing for the golf club. I don't think lying to her bosses or investors necessarily meets that threshold, nor does being the person who wrote the technical-sounding brochure for a golf club, nor does over-representing her qualifications to a golfer to get him to try her club. (Note I say "necessarily"-- defining a "public figure" is not something I have an algorithmic test for).
 
 
Where I depart from the "It was okay to expose her fake credentials, but not her sex change" line espoused by Kahrl and others, is that (and I think everyone knows this), assuming she actually does count as a public figure, exposing her as a professional fraud would have led to the same outcome, and been tatamount to a constructive outing her as trans (because it would have taken like a day for THAT story to come out). I feel like that's weak sauce, like saying "I didn't out him to the Nazis as a Jew, I just observed that he didn't seem to have any papers..."
 
Are you fucking serious with the Nazi comparison? That is so ridiculous I can't even.
 
It is very difficult to disentangle the many threads of Dr V's past from one another. She most certainly had every right to the privacy of her gender identity. But it is most certainly NOT an umbrella that can be used to protect yourself from the storms and repercussions in every other facet of your life. Dr V. may have had the greatest idea for a golf club in the world. If she had presented to club to Jordan and McCord as a self-taught physicist with a background in automotive engineering, then we're likely not here today. But she created a more bombastic back story to shortcut her route to success, and it was one that invited inspection. Unfortunately, the wrong person inspected the wrong part and did not handle it like they should have. But you cannot expect "people looking into my past because I defrauded people of their money will find something out I don't want public" to protect you. At that point, don't defraud people. If it's about the science and not the scientist, be honest about your background, possibly find a properly credentialed scientist to back you up, and present your science to let it stand on its own.
 
I feel awful that this ended the way it did. Dr V was obviously fighting her own demons for a long time. But she shone the spotlight on her own past when it suited her, and tried to then hide it when it didn't. There is a whole lot that Hannan did wrong here. But at every point this was being worked on, it actually was a story for a sports site like Grantland. Starting with an article about how Gary McCord and Dr V had invented and promoted a new club that worked conversely to all modern ideas about putter structure to the eventual "Dr. V and (possibly intentionally?) Gary McCord had swindled money out of a number of investors for a club with no basis in reality on the back of one of the most bombastic back stories you've ever heard", it's a story you could find on Grantland. Unfortunately, Hannan chose the turn of the story to be about Dr. V being trans. 
 

EvilEmpire

paying for his sins
Staff member
Dope
Gold Supporter
Apr 9, 2007
12,076
Washington
yep said:
To me, the ethical quesiton here is something like, having agreed/promised/accepted cooperation based on a story "about the science, not the scientist", at what point does the weirdness of the scientist become newsworthy enough to not only break your word, but also pose some stuff that is clearly going to be extremely disruptive and damaging to that person's personal life? And I think the answer to that question slides in correlation to the degree that the subject has purposely made a public figure of themselves.
I don't think the transgender stuff should have been reported, but c'mon, she was defrauding investors. Even agreeing to the interview was something that contributed to her ability to do that. I think the ethical responsibility to focus only on the science and not the scientist was gone when he found out she wasn't a scientist. Her lies about being a scientist are what eventually exposed her. I don't think being a public figure (or not) factors into it at all. If she eventually gained the success with her putter that she seemed to desire, more attention would have come whether she would have wanted it or not.

Why did Hannan want to interview her in the first place?

Edit: or what PDBWake posted while I was typing.
 

yep

Member
SoSH Member
Feb 3, 2006
2,465
Red Sox Natin
...But she shone the spotlight on her own past when it suited her...[/size][/background]
So this is exactly the nut of it, to me. This is a genuine question, not a challenge or a denial: can we get a clear example of her "shining the spotlight"? Like a quote, or a screenshot, or a video or something?

I may be just stupid, but that's exactly what I've been looking for, and haven't been able to find: the place where Dr V puts the spotlight on herself and her story.
 

PBDWake

Member
SoSH Member
May 1, 2008
3,679
Peabody, MA
The example from the story?
 
 
Kinney had heard his own share of incredible claims. Dr. V had told him that she was a $1,000-an-hour consultant. She said she was one of the original designers of Bluetooth technology. She even suggested that her status as a Vanderbilt provided access to some exclusive company who could help Yar’s business. Kinney said Dr. V told him she was good friends with the Hilton family, and that the relationship would pay off in the form of putters sold at their hotels.
That's one of the investors she took money from. These are the claims she gave him to secure funds. If those aren't claims that merit inspection, I don't know what is. And "By the way, my connections as a Vanderbilt will help the business" makes it very much about the scientist as well as the science.
 

yep

Member
SoSH Member
Feb 3, 2006
2,465
Red Sox Natin
So maybe this is a pedantic distinction, or just one that nobody else cares about, but (especially when we are talking about a deceased stealth transgendered person), I don't see one anecdote relayed by a jilted (is that the right word?) investor, about false statements allegedly made in private a dead person, as rising to the level of creating a legitimate public interest.

Maybe there is some other example that I'm missing. I'm not denying that she lied, I'm looking for a non-salacious reason to run a story about this person. "She pretended to have a degree" and "she pretended to be a Vanderbilt" are okay for a start, but there is a non-trivial component of: to whom? In what context?

It's not like this is Steve Jobs we are talking about. My completely inexpert analysis of their website suggests that this was an obscure and small, privately-held company with a somewhat off-kilter marketing aesthetic. And even in that small-time, obscure context, DR V appears to have taken pains to keep her own name and likeness off of the brand, away from the product, and out of the public eye. In fact she specifically made it a condition that the story be about the product and technical stuff, not about her or her background.

Like I said, I could be wrong about this. It's hard to prove a negative, and the next reply might pop up with a full-page ad from Golf Digest showing "Dr V explains how her work in rocket physics made the perfect putter possible!"... something like that would pretty well seal the deal.

But the more I try to find the place where Dr V really exploited her background, the more I find only gossipy stories told about private anecdotes. She seems to have been quite secretive, if anything. And to me, that's the pivot-point on the ethical question: a national reporter has no business outing a private person's personal life.

If she made herself part of the story, then I think he had every right to follow it where it led. But the justifications employed by the author here... they reek of snooping in diaries, and then over-blowing the subject to make her transgressions appear more public and more important, to create a justification after the fact. Concepts like "lying to investors" could mean anything from defrauding the SEC to padding your resume at a bar, when talking to the guy who eventually let you use his garage. When the only hook to hang your hat on is gossipy one-person anecdotes told about the lurid dead, that's not a very strong case. Dr V isn't here to tell her recollection of how that conversation went.

Like I said, I could be totally wrong. The next link could be a youtube video of her on a 1-hour informercial telling everyone why they should only buy putters from a fancy scientist like me. Or some series of letters to editors arguing her credentials as reasons to disregard bad reviews of her clubs. But I know dead business owners who were not even transgender, for whom I could find someone to tell some ugly stories (some of them are even true).

Edit: speling
 

Freddy Linn

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 14, 2005
8,775
Where it rains. No, seriously.
On my phone, but Mike Purkey of Global Golf Post has an article about his interactions with Dr. V that might be informative. Dr. V was "generous with her time, to a fault, and would speak to anyone who would listen about the Yar Putter". He met her on the putting green at a golf writers' conference.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 26, 2005
21,822
PBDWake said:
The example from the story?
 
 
That's one of the investors she took money from. These are the claims she gave him to secure funds. If those aren't claims that merit inspection, I don't know what is. And "By the way, my connections as a Vanderbilt will help the business" makes it very much about the scientist as well as the science.
 
As a side note, since it isn't germane to what I think is the larger issue here, but I have to say that you are conflating very distinct ideas.  Yes, fabricating one's background to get people to invest money in your product is frowned upon and can usually be actionable, but I have to think that for the most part, fabricating one's background to sell golf clubs just isn't INTERESTING enough to warrant being published.  Simmons himself basically admitted as much. 
 
And, if you think about it, if it was just about the fabricated background, the article would be pretty short. 
 
Investment frauds, fortunately or unfortunately, are a dime a dozen.  Whether they occur by making false claims about the product, about the key person, about the process, or anything else, they are just not that interesting to the general public.  Unless it involves a spectacular amount of money.
 
P.S.  About the investor.  If the investor really cared about the science or finding out the facts, it sounds like it would have taken him about 30 seconds to figure out Dr. V. didn't have the credentials she said she had.  Yes the investor lost money but hey, that tells me he probably didn't do his due diligence.
 

EvilEmpire

paying for his sins
Staff member
Dope
Gold Supporter
Apr 9, 2007
12,076
Washington
Setting aside the article for a moment, do people think Hannan would have been wrong if he had ignored the transgender stuff completely and just let McCord and investors he interviewed know that she had fabricated her scientific credentials?

I'm trying to understand where the line is.

Edit: spelling
 

Jungleland

Member
SoSH Member
Aug 2, 2009
1,130
As a reader (i.e. one who cares but has no journalistic background and thus no knowledge of standard ethics within the field) I not only would have been alright with that, I think it would have made for a fascinating article. Halfway through I was hardly thinking it wasn't worthy of my time or Grantland's space. On the contrary, I was enthralled. Sadly that reads to me how Hannan made his most serious offense in judgment - the con artist angle was a good story and in his ignorance, he thought the revelation of Dr. V's true sexuality was the smoking gun that hammered home that she was not who she said she was. It's pretty shocking that not one person who had editorial influence on the piece realized how wrong that thought process was, and that's before one even takes into account that she committed suicide. 
 

luckiestman

Son of the Harpy
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
19,674
yep said:
So this is exactly the nut of it, to me. This is a genuine question, not a challenge or a denial: can we get a clear example of her "shining the spotlight"? Like a quote, or a screenshot, or a video or something?

I may be just stupid, but that's exactly what I've been looking for, and haven't been able to find: the place where Dr V puts the spotlight on herself and her story.
 Look, 20 years from now if I have a different identity and part of that identity is telling people I hit leadoff for the Boston Red Sox in 2013, do you think people might look that up? 
 
Telling people you worked as a contractor and designed the stealth bomber is almost stolen valor level, I don;t see why you are being obtuse about it. 
 

luckiestman

Son of the Harpy
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
19,674
Here is some of the copy they were running with this scam (every ad has some variant of  "Dr. Essay AnneVanderbilt, the aerospace engineer designed a putter that can do just that"):
 
http://metrogolfmag.com/Articles/ArticleDetail/tabid/92/ArticleId/55/A-putter-that-wont-twist-at-impact-Believe-it-and-start-making-putts.aspx
 
 
To explain all the engineering that makes Yar putters superior to other clubs would require volumes, not to mention a PhD in engineering from MIT (which is exactly what the designer has). Suffice it to say that the club was designed by an aerospace engineer who doesn’t even play golf. So the club was designed according to the same physics that go into a stealth fighter jet. Oh, we could try to explain things like “parallel axis linearization” here, but why bother when you can read about the science of the putter on the company website, www.yargolf.com.
 
 
http://golfcentralmagazine.com/2011/07/the-yar-gxi-wb-wide-body-putter/