Friday, September 22, 2017

Walter Sipple.

Oliver Sipple
This week’s Radio Lab about the story around Walter Sipple is a must-listen. Sipple is the man who foiled an assassination attempt on Gerald Ford in 1975, and subsequently had his life ruined because the reporters covering the story happened to also out him as a gay man, even though it had zero to do with what he did.*

The whole piece grapples with what journalists should and should not reveal in a story, and as a writer who sometimes covers news, this is an issue I personally wrestle with. At the core, I’m a music writer, (even and arts and culture writer!) so much of my writing is driven by historical context and opinion. So I’ve always felt uncomfortable when a fellow writer includes information in a piece that isn’t really relevant, but will add color. And I can’t say that’s completely wrong, but my personal instincts do not flow that way. It’s a really tough line to balance on.

Anyway, I found this long and thorough discussion around the topic to be really great.

*I feel it should be made clear that he was out about his sexuality as far as the scene and city he was living in, but he wasn't out to his family, who lived 3/4 of a country away from him. And please remember that being gay in 1975 was far different than it is today. This context is clear in the recorded piece, but I feel I should mention it just in case someone younger has some sort of gut reaction along the lines of "Well, he should have been out in the first place." I think even Dan Savage would agree that this way of doing it was pretty out of line.

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