Note: My new column on Keller “tough a cancer patients, easy on war promoters.”
It all began last Wednesday when Emma Keller, spouse of former New York Times chief editor (and now weekly columnist) BIll Keller, penned a piece for The Guardian. It concerned a woman in New England named Lisa Adams, who is battling cancer and writing about the experience on Twitter, mainly for educational value, drawing a fair amount of notice. She is “dying out loud,” as Emma (whose father died not long ago from cancer far more quietly) puts it.
Emma Keller compares it to a “Reality TV show.” She complains that Adams posted an update on her condition that morning and then had the nerve to post another one just hours later—and wonders if her too-many tweets are “a grim equivalent of deathbed selfies.” And she charges: “You can put a ‘no visitors sign’ on the door of your hospital room, but you welcome the world into your orbit and describe every last Fentanyl patch.”
This was the headline on the column: “Forget funeral selfies. What are the ethics of tweeting a terminal illness?”
Well, the feedback was so negative, including right at The Guardian in the comments section, that she added this update at the bottom:
Since this article was published two days ago, there’s been a lot of negative comment on Twitter and below the line. Lisa Adams herself was upset by it. I had been in communication with her a number of times in recent weeks; given her health, I could have given her advance warning about the article and should have told her that I planned to quote from our conversations. I regret not doing so.
Now you’d think that the Keller family would want to stay away from this subject from now on, but no, Bill (perhaps feeling his wife had been misunderstood) returned to it for today’s column. Oddly, he chose to double-down.
[UPDATE: The Guardian just deleted the offensive Emma Keller piece that kicked this off, saying at first that it is (now judged) “inconsistent” with their “editorial code.” Then, mysteriously, they dropped that explanation and simply said its still “under investigation.” It’s cached here. And the Times‘ fine public editor Margaret Sullivan critiques his piece and solicits two new, if weak, comments from him.]