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Editor's Note 

Sensitivity

It might not be an actual concern to the rest of the universe, but inside the hallowed halls of the liberal media compound, the main topic of discussion the last few days has been a long form article on Grantland.com ostensibly about the inventor of a putter sold via infomercials. Certainly, that doesn't sound like the formula for a fascinating story, but it turned out that the inventor—a woman named Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt, who most called Dr. V—had manufactured most of the resume that the infomercial touted.

Here's the catch—the article ran on Grantland after Dr. V had committed suicide in October, seemingly at least in part because of the revelations the journalist was digging up. However, to make things more complicated, the author, Caleb Hannan, also discovered that Dr. Vanderbilt was born male.

There are a number of problems with the article, including an over-reliance on Hannan as part of the story, but the article's discussion of Dr. V as a transgender female and the possible influence of that outing as part of the piece led to an apology from ESPN (Grantland's corporate benefactor) and the site's editor-in-chief and founder Bill Simmons, as well as a lot of discussion online about whether that part of the story should have been told at all.

Media outlets have a long way to go in regard to how we treat the transgender community, but even beyond that significant and important issue within our profession, there's something in how we treat the subjects of our work, especially when the lines of what constitutes a public and private figure are so blurred these days. It's easy to chase a story, drawn by the allure of the narrative, without being considerate of the potential fallout.

The saga has been good for discussion here at the Weekly on how we approach these sort of stories, the ones that involve people in vulnerable states. I think we've succeeded more often than we've failed in that space, but with each story, we start over again. I can promise that we're trying, however.

More by Dan Gibson

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