Quoting people respectfully

As a non-fiction writer, do you ever worry that people will stop trusting you and start thinking twice before they say anything around you? For me I know that potential is there because so often, it is during fascinating discussions that I get ideas of things to write about. I’ve had friends laugh at me that whatever we’re talking about, they’re sure they’ll be able to go home afterwards and already find a blog post by yours truly on the topic.

But there is serious responsibility here! We really need to make sure we protect the people we write about. In some cases, it’s totally removing the writing content from the person. In other instances, it’s asking the person for permission to quote them with their name, other times, without their name.

Here is a blog post I wrote on January 10, 2009 on deenascreations.com about an experience I had where I quoted a girl and then forgot to tell her. Granted, I quoted her by name to begin with because I “knew” she wouldn’t mind, but she ended up finding out that she was “famous” from someone else! A stranger!

Here is what I wrote:

The other day I quoted my friend Tamara in a blog post. I actually wrote her name and then proceeded to forget to tell her about it. So last night at the Kollel she introduced herself to someone and the other woman said, “Oh, you must be the Tamara that Deena just wrote about in her blog.”

I am actually extremely careful about who I quote and how I quote them. You may have noticed that I almost never write anyone’s names in my blog. And often if I refer to a conversation I had, I’ll make the details obscure so that the person’s privacy is kept. And even more so, if someone says something to me and I feel like writing about it but in a negative way, I probably won’t do it (I think that until now I never have) and if I really want to write about that topic, I’ll just generally refer to the topic without mentioning having spoken to people about it.

The last thing I want is for people to be nervous around me, the way we might get around reporters and psychologists. I am not blogging with the intention of hurting anyone or making anyone feel vulnerable. I said to Tamara, when she told me about the conversation she’d just had, that the only reason I wrote her name was because I had a very strong feeling that she wouldn’t mind. She said, “You’re right.”

Believe me. There is so much more I want to be writing here. But I want my blog to add goodness to the world and people’s privacy is not something worth “sacrificing” in order reach the goals of my blog. It would defeat the purpose.

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4 thoughts on “Quoting people respectfully

  1. Joan

    I think this is such an important issue. When you’re constantly searching for writing inspiration, it’s easy to start looking at everything as potential “material”, including personal interactions. I try to be mindful that not everyone wants their thoughts, feelings and experiences recounted in a public forum. Great post.

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