>Challenge Number 1: What secrets must the writer keep?

>Sometimes when I interview people, it seems as if I can’t mention any of the best stuff. For example, my last interviewee is secretly living in her shop. She’s a married lesbian in a state that doesn’t recognize gay marriage, and her associates have even more interesting things going on, but I can’t mention them. I can only write about her work. She wanted to see a proof. I said no, as always but assured her she had nothing to worry about. It’s a puff piece; let’s be honest. I’m filling my space, and she’s getting free PR. Later she called to make sure I wouldn’t mention that she’s in AA. Well, you would not believe how many people I interview are in 12-step groups, mostly AA. They all stress anonymity. I assured her I would not write about that. It’s irrelevant; in fact, it’s so common these days it’s not even interesting, unless perhaps she makes wine or bootleg whiskey for a living. But the other stuff, ooh, rats, if only I could write about it.

Here the first Freelancing for Newspapers challenge. What can you tell, and what must you not, even if the person doesn’t specifically say it’s off the record. How do you decide? If you can’t put it in the paper, can you slip it into an essay or a poem or a short story with no names? I’d really like to know what people think.

P.S. My Freelancing for Newspapers book is being printed as we speak.

2 Comments on “>Challenge Number 1: What secrets must the writer keep?”

  1. Michele says:

    >I personally think that judgment such as we would use with our closest loved ones should be used.What would we want the world to know about our family, friends, or ourselves? It’s like when your best friend tells you something but forgets to ask you to keep it between just you two. Just because they forgot to ask you to keep quiet and respect their privacy doesn’t mean you advertise it to the world.Common sense. It’s as simple as that. Is it close to their heart? And you know in YOUR heart that it is wrong to write about and reveal even though it would make a great story.Could you squeeze it into a fiction piece later? You decide.

  2. Suelick says:

    >Good answer, Michele. I kept all the controversial stuff out of the article. I didn’t have room for it anyway. But I did write a poem about the woman living in her shop. I’m assuming that if I ever publish it she probably won’t see it and nobody will know it’s about her. Anybody else have thoughts on this subject?How about this other part of the story? I consider this woman a friend and am involved in music activities with her. I’m worried she won’t like the article. Can you write about friends and stay friends? Should you avoid writing about friends, relatives and co-workers?Sue

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