Sunday, September 07, 2008

it's bad to hate your sources!

Holy bananas! I'm doing a very simple article right now, the kind I've written hundreds of times before... simple premise, established bullet points, 3 experts. I had a short deadline, so I gathered a LOT of experts all at once, and wasn't terribly picky about them.

Well, I have to get pickier about one of them. 

How often do you interview someone and end up feeling offended to the very core? I'm not Keith Olbermann -- I usually don't write about anything soul-stirring or morally important. I write low-expectation stories for a mass-market audience, and since freelance rates have dropped in the last few years (and stayed at the same rate for the previous, oh, twenty years), I write them quickly and with a minimum of fuss.

But when I'm confronted with an expert spouting what amounts to ignorant, sexist hate-speech, what are my options? I can:
  • Decide not to use her at all, which feels impolite, since she did give me her time and thoughtful answers (soul-curdling as they are);
  • Use her less-offensive answers, which feels gross, because I'm giving her free book publicity, pointers to her site, and implicit approval of her worldview. 
And before you go telling me I shouldn't censor this poor beleaguered therapist, I just don't see how not using someone as an expert is censorship. Do I have to provide damaging advice based on shitty research to be p.c.? 

Anyway, I feel dirty having even spoken to her. To hear ancient bromides like "women cheat because of emotional needs; men cheat because they need sex, and aren't capable of thinking or feeling more deeply about it" made me want a Karen Silkwood shower. I don't think I can use the interview; if she objects, I'll fall back on the old "blame my mean old editor" response. If she gets that enough times, maybe she'll stop being such a reductive hater. 

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