Julie Pippert at Using My Words has this topic for this Wednesday's Hump Day Hmm: Are other people and the things they do (blog, email, news etc) fair fodder for our blogs? What are your ethics and mores as a writer, when it comes to characterizing others.
This is a very question very close to my heart today because a blogger I know is critically ill -- at best she has a 50/50 chance of pulling through. She is a highly talented, creative, warm, funny, involved person, a young woman, with young children. The news of the seriousness of her illness is truly a blow to the heart. I would like to direct you to her blog so that you could better feel with me the enormity of this, the sheer devastation her loss would bring to her family, to her friends, to the whole community.
But I am not going to say anything more about her here because I don't know whether she or her family would want me to do so. If she recovers, WHEN she recovers, I hope we will get beautifully crafted and hilariously funny stories of her hospital stay, thoughtful posts about how being so ill affected her and hers, incisive posts about what made her ill and how it was handled, reports on her children and pets, all the marvelous things she creates. And then I will be able to talk about it in detail. I don't know if I could write an eulogy, but that would also, in my mind be ethical. To go into any more detail than I have would not.
And so I am going to try to make my mind work rather than fret, try to go from the particular to the general and answer Julie's (she credits Lawyer Mama for the idea) very important question.
I will write only about facts that are public or that people have made public. For bloggers, that means something that has been written about in the blog or peripherals, photographed or referenced. If a blogger has been given an award, that's public. If there are ads or links on a site, that's also fair game.
Where there is information about family or friends, that's public. And so that is also the edge of a slippery slope. When I write about myself, no matter how carefully I do it, I am revealing facts that could lead a reader to my identity. And if I am identified, the trail then leads to my husband, daughters, grandchildren, friends and neighbours. Consequently, I am extremely careful not to post anything about friends or family that would hurt or embarrass them or that I would not say to them.
I very rarely make negative comments, child of the 1940's that I am. I don't make them to someone's face and I don't make them online, tempting as it sometimes may be. A correction of grammar or fact would go in an email to the writer unless it is so trivial as to be innocuous. If I really disagree with something, that goes into the comment section of the writer's blog. Politely. Only then would I write about that in my own blog. And cue the writer about the contrary opinion post. In fact, if I am picking up a theme from another blog, whatever it is, I reference the blogger.
Does this bowdlerize my blog? Make it less relevant, less real, less true? Probably. I read posts where people have laid something very sensitive out in the open and, I must admit, admire their courage for doing so. But I can't do it myself. I do feel entirely free to criticize government, business, public announcements and organizations of any sort, bad public practice, wherever I find it. Whee, fun! One of the best things about blogging, to my mind. As is analyzing and posting about what is going on in my own mind and heart, and sharing it with you.