A Question Of Ethics

I value honesty and integrity above all things. When blogging, I do my best to be straightforward and direct. For instance, if I am addressing or writing about an individual, I will name the person. If I am responding to something specific from another blog, I will link to the post in question. Sometimes, I come across things on other blogs that trigger a thought or idea, and inspire me to write about something unrelated to the topic I’m reading at that time. Even then, I feel it is appropriate to credit the author for the inspiration.

I do not engage in the dishonest games I occasionally come across on other blogs. For example: making up stories and inventing “anonymous” sources to try and make a point (not the same as writing fiction and calling it that), creating multiple accounts and using them to “high-five” myself in comments or give the appearance of having more than one contributor to my blog or making posts or comments that are clearly passive-aggressive shots at unnamed individuals. This type of behavior damages credibility, something I value far too much to jeopardize by playing such childish games.

Credibility – the issue that inspired this post.

I started this blog so I would have a place to ramble on about anything that happens to move me at any given time. But I am also working on a few other projects, one of which I would like to submit to newspapers and magazines at some point. My goal is to bring awareness about a particular issue that I feel has been swept under the rug for far too long, and hopefully inspire some desperately needed changes in how this issue is viewed by the public and dealt with by those in authority.

The trouble is this: in order to do this as effectively as possible, I will have to tell a very sensitive, personal story about myself and my family. I also want to remain anonymous. But how do I tell a story about myself while not telling that it’s about me, and still maintain integrity and credibility? I thought about saying that the subject of the essay wishes to remain anonymous, which would be true but somewhat misleading. That doesn’t sit well with me.

Is this even a question of ethics? What are the rules and boundaries here?

I would greatly appreciate any thoughts, ideas or suggestions you may have. This project is long overdue and I’m aching to get on with it; I’m just struggling with how to approach it.

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11 responses to “A Question Of Ethics

  • Mike

    I think that maybe in the end you might have to be a little dishonest, but only a minimal amount; as in, be “dishonest” about your identity to tell the truth and protect others. A white lie, in other words.

  • Lottie

    Then what happens when I’m rich and famous and running for political office (*snort*) and the truth comes out? Won’t it hurt my credibility?

    Then again, it could be worth it with something so much bigger at stake.

  • Mike

    Nah. Just call it a pseudonym, and you’re sorted 😀

  • Gary Murning

    I’m just rushing off, but I felt I must quickly comment on this, Lottie.

    It’s a tough one, and similar to my situation with CotR. The simple answer would be, you are the best judge of what the rules should be when writing solely about yourself — but that’s no answer, because invariably other people are involved.

    A fictional representation, using a pseudonym, would be my choice, I think, thereby protecting all concerned. Would this affect the piece’s credibility? I don’t know, but I tend to think not.

    The ethical issue… start with your motive for writing the piece. Is it just? Will it hurt people? If it will, is this because they are somehow guilty? Protecting innocence has validity…

    Sorry, I’m dashing this off. Will return tomorrow and add anything that occurs in the meantime.

  • Lottie

    Thank you for commenting Gary. I always appreciate you taking the time.

    It’s a tough one, and similar to my situation with CotR. The simple answer would be, you are the best judge of what the rules should be when writing solely about yourself — but that’s no answer, because invariably other people are involved.

    Yes, other people are involved. And not just my own family, but other families as well.

    A fictional representation, using a pseudonym, would be my choice, I think, thereby protecting all concerned. Would this affect the piece’s credibility? I don’t know, but I tend to think not.

    This is something I hadn’t considered. I’ll definitely give it some more thought.

    The ethical issue… start with your motive for writing the piece. Is it just?

    I believe it is.

    Will it hurt people? If it will, is this because they are somehow guilty? Protecting innocence has validity…

    Worst case scenario, certain people’s reputations could be damaged and they might even lose their jobs, but only because they used their positions to mistreat, abuse and exploit innocent and vulnerable people. I have no sympathy for them.

    The problem is that the victims’ reputations could also be damaged, but only because of certain stigmas attached to the specific vulnerability that allowed them to be preyed on in the first place. I can’t think of a way to convincingly expose the severity of the problem without simultaneously re-victimizing the victims in the situation. At the same time, I’m concerned about damaging the credibility of the entire story by not being completely honest (remaining anonymous to protect myself and others) from the start. And credibility is key here.

    I’m sorry to be so vague. I hope this is making some kind of sense. It seems to be a Catch 22 all the way around – not only the situation itself, but in trying to seek advice on how to deal with it.

    Thanks so much for your comments, Gary. You’ve definitely given me food for thought. I’ll look forward to hearing anything else you have to say on the subject.

  • Gary Murning

    On the subject of anonymity; I honestly don’t think it has to necessarily affect credibility. If you make it very clear that this is the case, and outline your reasons for choosing that particular route (in the article), it might even lend the article a little added weight. Being open about it in the piece shows that you aren’t being disingenuous and that you are acting responsibly. That can only build confidence in the reader, IMHO.

  • Lottie

    That makes a lot of sense, Gary. Thanks for your help!

    I suppose I should get to work on it and stop worrying so much about it. You know me, though… 😉

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  • Ariane5

    I had a similar problem with the many years in my life I was suicidal….. I did want to document my experiences but I felt it was wrong to mix those posts with my general blog posts so I created a separate blog just for them. Perhaps that is an option.

    Maybe you could consider using aliases for the victims alone? Honesty and integrity are the two qualities I value most in people and yet I believe that using aliases in this situation would not be dishonest. I do appreciate that honesty and integrity are subjective and you may feel differently, and indeed it seems you do. It’s a tough one, that’s for sure and I think you’re to be commended for giving it so much consideration.

  • Ariane5

    I wanted to add that your experience sounds very like one I had working in care….sadly.

  • Lottie

    Hi Ariane! Glad to see you again!

    Thanks for the encouragement. I always appreciate hearing from you.

    It’s not so much that I feel using an alias would be dishonest, I was just concerned that it might be perceived that way by others. After hearing from you, Gary and Mike, I’m not so worried about it now. There are good reasons for remaining anonymous, and as you all have pointed out, it can be done in an honest and direct way.

    I’m glad I posted about this. I’m feeling a lot better about it already. Thanks again for commenting. I appreciate your support.

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