Hannan began research on Dr. V’s magical putter 8 months prior to publishing it on Grantland’s website. But the story that began as a simple evaluation of golf equipment, started to take an interesting turn when Hannan began to investigate further into the life of Dr. V herself.
Although upon contact, Dr. V made it abundantly clear that for Hannan to write an article about her putter, it must “focus on the science and not the scientist.” Amongst many glowing credentials, such as a graduate from MIT, Dr. V perplexingly, yet sternly, refused to answer questions about herself no matter how hard Hannan tried.
Persistently, Hannan turned to outside sources and continued to indulge himself into an individual’s life with the furthest thing from permission. After weeks of investigation, Hannan finally learned what Dr. V had been so desperately trying to keep private. Dr. V was transgender and began a new life, on falsified credentials, after an attempted suicide. The story takes a turn for the worst, when readers learn that Dr. V succeeded in another attempt to take her own life.
Although Hannan had a responsibility as a journalist to uncover facts that proved to be fictitious about the inventor, he should have taken a bit more sensitivity to the matter. It was not Hannan or Grantland’s place to “out” Dr. V, but they did. And they seemed to do it in a careless manner.
A simple Internet search proves the shocking amount of suicide attempts by transgenders. According to livescience.com 41% of the transgender community attempt suicide. That is 25 times the rate of the general population. This information definitely should have been considered as the article developed.
In addition, Dr. V’s death was used as more of a scandalous twist in their story. Although the facts were that Dr. V committed suicide, there are alternative ways to deliver that message to the audience. There should have been a sense of empathy and compassion, which did not seem present.
However, individuals blaming Hannan for the cause of death are far out of line. It cannot be proven that Dr. V decided to kill herself because of this particular story. Existing facts prove that she had attempted to end her life prior, so there may have been other issues that even Hannan was not aware of.
In the grand scheme of things, Grantland’s editor Bill Simmons made one of the best decisions by posting an apology. The article about Dr. V received a lot of traffic, and much of it positive in the beginning. But the apology provided the correct amount of ethics needed for this particular story.