BY LISA MARIE BASILE
I work in digital media. I read and edit personal essays every single day. The pieces I publish tend to be vulnerable, insightful, and quite nuanced. I am proud of the voices I edit--and I'm proud of the role I play in that process. But let's be honest: I would be quite the liar if I said I wasn't well-versed in clickbait. For many publications--and I happen to edit for a dozen of them--clickbait is synonymous with paycheck. It's a sad state of affairs, but we must give the people what they want.
What people don't want is to be told they should die. As an editor--and as a writer who has gotten (too?) opinionated about birth control and murder and myriad polarizing miscellany--one needs to have a solid sense of integrity as they press 'publish.' Editorial integrity and moral integrity--they may not be one in the same, but there are times when they must merge.
Today, I woke up to dozens of people alarmed by xoJane's piece, My Former Friend's Death Was A Blessing. The author is Amanda Lauren, though the post was quickly anonymized after the backlash.
Lauren writes of her sick friend: "It sounds horrible to say, but her death wasn't a tragedy, her life was. Her sister died when she was in college. Schizoaffective disorder robbed her of reaching her potential. There were some other things along the way. She was alone and terribly unhappy when died. Leah with the big heart didn't deserve that. Judging Facebook pages, we all compare ourselves to other people, what they have, what they don't, and their accomplishments. This girl had nothing to live for."
There's expected backlash, good backlash, backlash that says: Did an editor read this? And then there's backlash that says, Did a human read this? There is no dialogue to be made here. There are no "sides" one can take. There is nothing but a surprising negligence – both on the part of the writer and the editorial staff at xoJane. Full disclosure: I've written for xoJane before. The editors have always been helpful and kind. But I can't hide my disappointment. As someone who respects opinion and confession (and publishes a magazine dedicated to it), there's no way I would have printed this.
According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, "When suicide is publicly discussed by experts in the field of prevention, described in news reports, or depicted in movies and television, people at risk for suicide can be profoundly affected."
This means, simply, that publications have a responsibility to engage in discussion around suicide in a way that at its best is nuanced and accurate and at its most basic doesn't encourage it. It doesn't take a degree in social work or psychology or even an interest in mental health to know that what was being published was reprehensible--both in its content and in its goal (clicks).
No thank you, they should say to the writer. (Though I might say, 'WTF? Are you kidding me right now?) I don't want my rent being paid at the expense of someone's death. All lives are worth living--yes, even "shitty" ones.
Lisa Marie Basile is a NYC-based poet, editor, and writer. She’s the founding editor-in-chief of Luna Luna Magazine, and her work has appeared in Bust, Bustle, The Establishment, Hello Giggles, The Gloss, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, and The Huffington Post, among other sites. She is the author of Apocryphal (Noctuary Press, Uni of Buffalo) and a few chapbooks. Her work as a poet and editor have been featured in BuzzFeed, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, The New York Daily News, Best American Poetry, and The Rumpus, among others. She currently works for Hearst Digital Media, where she edits for The Mix, their contributor network.