As a rule, I recommend that every carbon-based life form online avoid the comments section of news sites, from newspapers to television stations to local blogs covering the farmer’s market, because the comments are usually overflowing with fresh awful crazysauce.
In this case, I recommend everyone read the comments because they restore some sanity and hope for what is a truly disgraceful and frankly stupid news segment.
WNEP, a television station from the northeast and central part my home state of Pennsylvania (OH MY GOSH I AM SO PROUD. NOT.) ran this lovely piece of crap story revealing the pen name of a local high school English teacher who writes for Ellora’s Cave as Judy Mays. But wait, there’s more: the news segment then assists these parents in holding her up for public ridicule—and, in the case of one class act of a parent, accusations of pedophilia.
It is no secret that there’s crazysauce in epic levels which amplifies to a full boil when placed in front of a news camera. My question is why this was a story in the first place. What is the big deal if, in her private time, a high school English teacher writes erotic romance under a pen name and keeps that part of her life separate?
The comments to the news article are marvelous and incredibly supportive of Mays, including this one, from Jessica, a former student:
I attended MWSD and had the pleasure of having Mrs. as my English teacher. I LOVED her class! It was my one morning class I looked forward to everyday. She inspired us as student just not to read and write, but to enjoy our high school years before they were over. She gave me the idea to switch my graduation paper from becoming a photographer to a nurse. I am now in my third year of nursing school, and thank Mrs. B everyday for the lessons in English she gave me that allow me to write lengthy papers on nursing topics. She also encouraged me to take honors and AP english in high school. I knew about what she did when I was in her class, but I never gave a though to it. I said great for her to find the time in her day while juggling so many other things to be able to do that. I applaud and support her as a teacher, writer, and mother. techniqually if we look deeper she has many jobs, but these two are the only two we are analyzing.
So how to respond? Often, I find websites for news organizations don’t really curate or even respond to comments to articles. They mostly fester alone and neglected.
But beyond the comments to the article itself, which are mostly made of Grade-A awesomesauce in support of Ms. Mays, I’ve found that the WNEP news room has a Facebook page.
WNEP is on Twitter, too but all they do is broadcast (quelle surprise).
What makes me absolutely livid is that all WNEP did was expose someone’s private life because it made for salacious content. It’s not as if Ms. Mays had brought any of her writing life into her classroom or had behaved inappropriately – the two parts of her life were apparently separate – until now. And, as Colleen Thompson pointed out on Twitter, if a male teacher were writing serial killer fiction and doing well at it, he’d be lauded—probably with a soft focus profile as a “local author.”
But because a female teacher writes about sex and romance, parents feel the need to call her ethics and her professionalism into question, and expose her to public humiliation.
If you’d like to write an email to the author, the address published on her website is firstname.lastname@example.org .
And oh, my gosh, look how many books Ms. Mays has written. You go on with your awesome self, ma’am.
ETA: The Associated Press has a very brief story on the WNEP site that highlights the accusations and the response. Ms. Mays has declined to be interviewed by the AP, but as per Dakota Cassidy’s comment below, Ms. Mays is aware we’re all irate on her behalf. (Hi Judy! Kick ass and take names at work today, ma’am!)
And a wise former broadcast journalist sent me a heads up that the News Director for WNEP and the General Manager for the station may be better places to direct your ire than the reporter, who may have been handed the story with little say about it (conjecture on my part, obviously). The News Director would be more likely to have approved it for airtime. Should you feel inclined, the News Director email is email@example.com, and the General Manager is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Facebook page furthers the social and media fail that is WNEP: if you want to see the comments left by angry viewers and readers, you have to click on “Most Recent.” I’m hoping they come up with a better response instead of hiding them, but I’m not holding my breath.