Wow, this is a topic I never thought I'd be dealing with. Twice in the last month, things I've said over what I thought were personal emails were taken completely out of context and splattered on the web for all to see. Before I tell you how I feel about this, let me tell you a bit about myself.
For six years, I was a freelance journalist. I interviewed thousands of sources for magazine articles and tried to handle each source as if they were the most important person in the world. I wanted them to trust me because so often journalism takes a quote and twists it simply to create buzz. This sickened me and after six years, I was done. None of my articles exploited anyone, but seeing the pressure out there to sensationalize took the drive out of me. I didn't want to be associated with the industry. The further along I got, the more defensive sources became. I felt terrible because I knew at one point they'd been mishandled by another journalist, giving them a bad taste in their mouth when it came to new interviews.
About 2/3 of the way through my journalism career, I signed with an agent for a nonfiction book on a topic very close to my heart. The project was meant to be a prescriptive book, a step-by-step telling of how to achieve a successful adoption. The farther I got into the project, the more my agents changed the scope of the book. They wanted it to be more sensational. They wanted gut-wrenching, super-private stories to come to life. I felt my sources shutting down on me, getting more wary each interview because they knew, as I did deep down, that the book was spiraling out of control. It was never my intention to write an expose. I wanted to help people, not exploit other's pain to sell books.
I backed out of the contract and received the harshest email I've ever gotten from the agency. Saying that I cried for hours would be an understatement. I swore that day I'd never take on another book project. Obviously that didn't stick.
Back to present day. Now I'm on the other end of the interview. That's fine; it's part of my job as a novelist. However, twice now, people quoted me from what I believed were personal, chatty emails - not part of any kind of interview. Both times the blog posts brought about confusion. People were angry with me, thinking I'd given these bloggers my blessing - when, in fact, I didn't even know I'd been talked about until it was too late. Did I say the things quoted? Sure. Were they taken completely and wildly out of context? Absolutely. To the point where I've sworn off having personal conversations with those people. I feel betrayed.
The most recent popular example of this type of misquoting comes from an interview Brad Pitt did while promoting Moneyball in Parade Magazine. As someone who's been through a divorce with a guy I'd prefer never to see again, I can relate 100% to Brad's comments about his marriage with Jen. Anyone who's been through divorce knows that it's more about who you are inside than who you are in a relationship. That's all he was trying to say, but the media took it out of context and now everyone hates him again. I feel bad for him, for Jen, and for Angelina. They are simply trying to be normal people and be honest. What do they get for it? Quotes twisted and taken out of context. I don't care how much money he has in his bank account, it has to hurt anyway.
So if you ever see a blog post about me, and you think, Would Megg really say that? Is that what she meant? Take a moment to wonder how the quote came about. What was the source? What did I really mean? This blog is the only place I can truly speak for myself. You want to know me? You'll find me here.