When “outing” is out of order

In Caleb Hannan’s quest to better his game, he discovers the Oracle GX1 putter invented by Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt. Her, and her club’s promises intrigue him. His article, “Dr. V’s Magical Putter”, was published January 15th 2014.

Hannan was sent the putter by Dr.V and began putting it to use while she briefed him about her business and resume. One of the five intellectual principles of ethical journalism is, “never publish facts not verified by yourself”, and so Hannan began his research to verify her credentials.

Hannan found it hard to find any trace of Dr.V before the early 2000’s. It soon became apparent that Dr. V had lied in her resume. She didn’t have a business degree and hadn’t worked for the government. He then uncovers a secret kept hidden for years; Dr.V had been born a man. This oddly managed to horrify Hannan and sent a, “chill”, up his spine.

Caleb Hannan

John Levin in his analysis of Hannan’s article states, “Dr. V is a con artist and a trans woman, Hannan though, conflates those two facts, acting as though the latter has some relation to the former.”

 Dr. V clearly wished to forget and move on from her life as a man, yet Hannan continued to ask her to verify what he found. He contacted Dr. V’s previous wives and even goes as far as, ‘outing’ her to an investor, which seems a step too far. Hannan is inexplicably surprised when her investor, “calmly” takes the news Dr. V had once been a man.

If Hannan had followed the IFJ’s code of conduct, thought about his output principles and respected her privacy, he might have chosen not publish the article. He shows a lack of understanding to the serious risks transgender people can face. In America transgender people are being murdered at a rate almost 50% higher than lesbians and gays. Dr. V had asked for her life not to be discussed and Hannan broke the trust she placed in him.

Transgender Pride Flag

John Levin, comments that people are angry because they believe, “the outing of a trans woman shouldn’t be treated as some amazing plot twist”. S.I. Rosenbaum puts across the argument, “we have to consider the damage our stories can do and decide whether there is compelling reason to publish anyway. That does not seem to have been done here.” Rosenbaum also shows how Hannan’s article could have been published without any mention of Dr. V’s transgender status.

Hannan reveals that Dr. V tragically committed suicide before publication of the article. Some people are now blaming him for Dr.V’s death, (although she had been suicidal previously), and are now asking for, “Justice for Dr.V”

Angry twitter users unite for Justice For Dr.V under this hashtag

Hannan “outed” a transgender woman against her will and even continued with the article after she committed suicide not following the ethical practice of respecting someone’s right to privacy over certain areas in their life. Journalistic professionalism seems to encourage writing with drama, twists and plots as it produces more circulation and notoriety for commercial gain however unethical. Journalists should be aware that their articles don’t put anyone in a vulnerable or uncomfortable position without justification. Journalists should be more aware of transgender issues whilst following a code of conduct that makes them sensitive to the LBGT community and the discrimination they can face.

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