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The Dr. V Story: A Letter From the Editor «


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As we debated internally whether to run the piece, four issues concerned us. First, we didn’t know about any of the legal ramifications. That’s why we had multiple lawyers read it. Second, we were extremely worried — obviously — about running a piece about a subject who took her own life during the tail end of the reporting process. How would that be received externally? Was the story too dark? Was it exploitative? Would we be blamed for what happened to her? And third, we worried about NOT running the piece when Caleb’s reporting had become so intertwined with the last year of Dr. V’s life. Didn’t we have a responsibility to run it?

The fourth issue, and this almost goes without saying: Not only did we feel terrible about what happened to Dr. V, we could never really know why it happened. Nor was there any way to find out.

Maybe that should have been enough of a reason to back off. In fact, we almost did. Multiple times. We never worried about outing her posthumously, which speaks to our ignorance about this topic in general. (Hold that thought.) We should have had that discussion before we posted the piece. (Hold that thought, too.) In the moment, we believed you couldn’t “out” someone who was already dead, especially if she was a public figure. Whether you believe we were right or wrong, let’s at least agree that we made an indefensible mistake not to solicit input from ANYONE in the trans community. But even now, it’s hard for me to accept that Dr. V’s transgender status wasn’t part of this story. Caleb couldn’t find out anything about her pre-2001 background for a very specific reason. Let’s say we omitted that reason or wrote around it, then that reason emerged after we posted the piece. What then?

A very tangled story.  I still can't make sense of it, did this person really have a degree from MIT?  Did they really work on the stealth bomber?  She seemed to be very sensitive about her private life, but very controlling too.  Maybe a more in depth report will be done by one of the investigative news shows.

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