January 19, 2014 12:54 PM   Subscribe

In the wake of recent debates about the responsibility of journalists to their subjects, this essay from, about a woman suffering from a rare disorder, and the writer's relationship with her before and after the story is being written, has been hearalded as a good counterexample of "a journalist analyzing her actions ferociously," and doing a more ethical job of dealing with "suffering, suicide and a journalist's responsibility".
posted by Potomac Avenue (5 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I read that yesterday. It was impressive and it also made me sad about Gretchen Molannen.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:54 PM on January 19, 2014

Such a terrible situation for all sides. It's a serious no win. The story needs to be told to weaken the stigmas that force a sufferer into hiding, but the price that gets paid. I don't know what else you do because it really feels like this reporter worked hard to get the tone right and treat Gretchen with respect.

Ultimately it may just be that the relief from telling the story and being taken seriously that utlimately allows for suicide. Not unlike the people who commit suicide after finding a treatment that helps alleviate the energy drain nature of depression.
posted by drewbage1847 at 2:04 PM on January 19, 2014

It really sounded like Molannen was just at the end of her rope with this condition and had been very tired of struggling with it. But she didn't have all the help she could have had and it's really sad that the story brought a lot of attention to her plight and people offered their help in response, but too late.

You'd think she'd know that would happen, but maybe she was so anxious about the other, negative side of the publicity and also just hopeless about things, as one can get. I understand that very well, suffering from both a chronic illness and chronic depression.

Anyway, Leonora LaPeter Anton certainly behaved much, much better than did Caleb Hannan. And I think the point is that even though Dr V. was a hostile subject and Molannen was (mostly) a willing subject, that doesn't mean that the ethics involved are that different. You don't need a subject's permission to write about them, but you don't need their permission to write about them to write about them ethically, either.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:16 PM on January 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by bleep at 2:38 PM on January 19, 2014

The angst the journalist that told her story describes, compared to the 'oh well' attitude evident in Hannan's piece, tells a lot about the difference in attitude between the two journalistic approaches (perhaps about the differences between them as people also). One is telling a story about a person, the other is telling a person's story. Even worse, Hannan starts off telling a story about a person and ends up talking mostly about himself and how he has been 'tricked', brushing aside the agony of the original subject of his story and completely ignoring the part that he played in increasing that agony.
posted by dg at 3:07 PM on January 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

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