I’m going for complete honesty here, no matter how many hackles it raises, but I’ve embraced the title of the “Black Sheep of LGBTQ Journalism” bestowed to me by a younger, “smarter” journalist who writes outrage pieces for a much bigger outlet, making what’s (no doubt) a much bigger salary that comes at (no doubt) a much bigger karmic cost.
This individual — quite comfortable in his Twitter-verified professional “maturations” — lobbed mass-email bombs at me across a platform I share with other journos and editors. He called me many things that one normally reserves for the lowest of the low (chief among them a woman-hater and a racist), then dubbed me a black sheep in dripping, seething sarcasm without realizing he was addressing a woman which, granted, is something the name “Berlin” doesn’t immediately give away. Why? I’ll get to that. But it sickened me. I’m a half-Asian woman from the swamps of South Georgia. Further, I’m a survivor of very gnarly ordeals who’s dealt with the sickest of traumas a tiny “half-breed!” (per my actually white grandmother) can deal with, while also being a woman who taught her illiterate Thai mother (via my kindergarten schoolbooks) how to identify letters and numbers, and how they’re sounded out. Sadly, I’m a member of the #MeToo movement, but I’ve not (until now) been open about it. That’s because I haven’t been sure it’s a good call (ethically) to say much about my personal experiences when, honestly, I’m an editor (not a columnist) and should make sure I don’t give the impression of interest conflict in my reporting.
Frankly, I’m just a writer. I’ve designed the feel of many newspapers and magazines, sure. I’ve penned many curious and twisted pieces on my own, only to be recognized by other weirdos as someone with a sickening backstory and a knack for hammering keys to convey it. But I’m just a writer. That’s it. College conﬁrmed my innate storytelling ability by offering me a spot on the university paper’s roster, then unanimously voting to make me its editor. (Color me “daggum.”) I learned the professional way to go about this business and was set free to do so. Then I entered the “real world,” where clicks from sensationalist pieces (no matter how awful and without due diligence of reporting the other side) were items that brought home better bacon. The nastier you were, the more you manipulated your readers into anger and fear, the “better” you were as a “journalist.” This went against everything I was taught. It went against everything I believed in.
Working for publishers who care more about stupid clicks that leave people angry than they care about writing stories that give equal weight to both sides? THAT, my beloved reader, is what creates disenfranchisement and burnout in people like who vie for truth over yellow journalism. Using this powerful platform to drum up terror via one-sided reporting is something that will never happen under my watch. Thankfully, I have a publisher who gets that. (Thank you, Tim.)
So why would that “gentleman” call me such awful things? Because I wasn’t taking sides in a coordinated, political frenzy that I naturally, as an LGBTQ journalist, was “supposed” to. I remained neutral and reported things as fact once they became fact, regardless of the political season.
I abide by a code of ethics, speciﬁcally the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics.
Do me a favor and imagine a Superbowl coach announcing via Twitter who he/she wants to win a week before the game. Can you see how each ﬂag thrown on the play would look biased and unobjective? How everyone watching would go, “Of COURSE that biased jerk threw a ﬂag!” only to leer at the motives, to call into question the ability of this person to be objective? Then you can imagine how devastated I would feel if any of my articles had that distinctly “biased” feel. I’m the one who reports; not opines. (Except for in these editorials. I can cut a little loose. Here, these are clearly marked as editorials, so I’m able to speak freely, as a writer with her press badge off.)
Yes: I’m human. No: My ethics can’t be bought. What you’ll see in our pages is news as news should be, and opinions as opinions should be — deﬁned and clear, no matter who calls me what in front of other reporters.
So to all my friends (including those I have yet to meet), I raise a glass of cheap sparkling water and say: Here’s to getting back to being reporters — to making the term “the black sheep of journalism” the next big thing.