How the NYT Got an Interview Wrong

Posted on behalf of Faith O’Donnell, with permission.

I was really disappointed by a New York Times article made in my likeness.

For one thing, basic details were wrong, but too many identifying details were included, despite my request to the contrary (I wish I had paid off my student loans!). Most of all, though, I feel disappointed that the politics of “Spitzergate” (or maybe “Kristengate”), as outlined in press releases, were not really included, as I understood they would be (even if not about Spitzer specifically, at least as related to sex and sex workers). I was not identified as an activist or even as a member of an organization. I tried to keep to the “party lines” as outlined in the press releases.

Additionally, I felt like this was a fluff piece for the Sunday paper, only confirming one kind of way of thinking about sex workers. Had I known this, I wouldn’t have participated. I turned down many other requests in response to our press release or spoke less in-depth, but the NY Times seemed to have more credibility (stupid of me), and Andrew Jacobs seemed to “get it.” Ultimately, however, his piece was also combined with another reporter’s (who ended up not talking to anyone I know). I can only assume both pieces got distilled. And that the NY Times is in the business of selling papers (and I’m not).

I have never identified as a prostitute or call girl, or as “a call girl who books [my] own appointments.” I was told for the piece, I needed to talk about ‘personal experience.’ I talked about stripping (sex work includes different kinds of sexually-oriented jobs, not just “prostitution”) and about meeting people on internet in a vague way. I also talked about escorts in general, about why someone uses an agency vs. working as an indie sex worker and how they might screen clients (reporters have this interest directly from “Kristengate.”)

I would have never said I do anything illegal! And I’m not doing anything illegal. I have a relationship I didn’t want to mention and a girl I’m dating and the reporter assumed I’m “bisexual” (I hate that term) and made other assumptions (gleaned as true from my coyness or hesitation to talk about some subjects). Furthermore, some details are totally out of context, as if I had said them the way expressed in the article. Andrew Jacobs spoke to 4 people at length, only 2 of whom are explicitly represented in in the article, and it seems as though some of the details are combined! I talked to Amanda Wright this evening, and she confirmed some of the things I did not say, she did say to him (I have never heard of an “internet database?”)! Some of her story can be seen here (flawed in its own ways).

Overall, I don’t think it portrayed me totally in a “bad light,” (I am an NPR addict with “entrancing blue eyes” and “natural breasts” that keep ‘em coming, after all!) but represented me in a way that could be hurtful to me (despite being details not about me) and was not ultimately a new story about sex workers. I will let Sally in the story speak for herself, but some of that was inaccurate as well, and also included too many personal details that were supposedly only required as “factual references.”

Madeleine Dash noted: “what makes me so mad about this, as i wrote in response to a friend and ally who didn’t think it was so bad aside from the ‘outing issues,’ is that were a doctor asked to comment on a malpractice suit, the reporter wouldn’t instead run an article around the doctor’s home life, hobbies, and entrancing blue eyes and natural breasts. or their ‘hearty meal.’ disingenuous assholes. we ARE the experts on our own lives, no matter what they tell us. and i hope that we find ways for each of yr badass brilliant voices to be projected outwards to the media without compromising integrity or privacy.”

I feel like I’ve learned an awful lot about mainstream media this last week and I plan to be incredibly selective about what I say to who, and most importantly, to start “making the media so the media can’t make me.”

5 Responses

  1. apparently, some of the most identifying info has already been changed and Faith is waiting for some of the other info to be changed (including the incorrect info)…just an update…

  2. thanks for the update!

  3. [...] How the NYT Got an Interview Wrong « Bound, Not Gagged “I feel like I’ve learned an awful lot about mainstream media this last week and I plan to be incredibly selective about what I say to who, and most importantly, to start ‘making the media so the media can’t make me.’” (tags: media msm Spitzer sexwork) [...]

  4. [...] this is highly problematic. Some sex workers that have trusted mainstream media have then been outed and faced the repercussions – thereby instilling in the community even less trust in the [...]

  5. […] at Bound, Not Gagged, for being more fair and accurate about the lives of middle-class sex workers. Faith O’Donnell had several complaints about it from the first publication, including that she felt there were too many identifying […]

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