Column: Unethical jouralism practices ruin lives

By:  Liam McGurl @Liiiammm1996

(image courtesy of usmagazine.com)

 

Journalism: it’s about delivering the facts.  Well, the facts the public ought to know, that is.

Unfortunately for Lilly Wachowski, formerly Andy Wachowski, her all-too-real facts’ public release were prompted by a concoction of unethical journalism and a disregard for the face behind a potential headline.

According to Wachowski—one half of the sibling-director-duo behind the Matrix films—said her coming out process was unnaturally expedited by Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper. Wachowski alleged that the newspaper threatened to release a story exposing her transgenderism.  In an effort to share her authentic narrative, as each human deserves, Wachowski wrote an open letter for her hometown LBGTQ news source Windy City Times—somewhat unwillingly coming out as transgender.

With recent, public celebrity transitions—such as that of Caitlyn Jenner—everyone seems to have an opinion on transgenderism.  While some opinions are religiously motivated and others grounded in pure ignorance, Wachowski’s words likely hit a compassionate nerve in most readers.

“You know, when you’re living as an out transgender person, it’s kind of difficult to hide,” she said in the online publication. “I just wanted—needed—some time to get my head right, to feel comfortable. But apparently, I don’t get to decide this.”

Wachowski’s emotional admittance is nothing short of heartbreaking, mainly because of the dual issue that impelled her to come out.

First, from a journalistic standpoint, Daily Mail breached what could be called one of journalism’s golden rules: respect the privacy of innocent persons.

Wachowski—a professional woman, dedicated to her craft—deserved to tell this story on her own terms, when she was ready to face potential criticism head-on and with a sense of self-assurance.  Unfortunately, Wachowski became the victim of media bullying instead.

It’s hard enough for many LGBTQ community members to come out to those they adore: family, friends and, even, coworkers.  For Wachowski, poor journalistic ethics, mixed with her “celebrity” status, forced her to come out on a global scale.  Within the first few hours of the letter’s publishing, Wachowski went from being a notoriously private filmmaker to a public spectacle.

Outside Daily Mail’s breach of a long-held journalistic principle, those who pressured Wachowski breached a moral principle: compassion for the experiences of others.  It might not be a legal responsibility, but it’s one the public generally aims to uphold.  Sure, we’re all humans, and we’re not always as respectful as we ought to be; however, there’s a heightened moral expectation from journalists.

There’s power in words—especially those that tell the stories of others.  Daily Mail wasn’t dealing with some fluff story on the best local diners—they were toying with someone’s reality.  It’s worth noting that, as many LGBTQ community members will attest to, it’s a reality often unaccepted by the majority of faces they greet with each day’s passing.

Daily Mail threatened Wachowski with her own narrative, likely attempting to use a shock-value story to increase publication “views.”  In the end though, Daily Mail established themselves as an unscrupulous, unfair publication with no regard for the human condition.

On the other hand, Wachowski showed immense strength—taking control of her own narrative and refusing to be made suppressed by faulty ethics and morals.

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