>Challenge Number 1: What secrets must the writer keep?Posted: May 31, 2007
>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.