A journalist (who shall remain nameless) once complained about a piece I wrote in which I included (without consent) their brief response to a letter I wrote, accusing me—me—of unethical behavior and saying I didn’t understand just how unethical such behavior was, and telling me they had not realized they were on the record.
This was part of my response (heavily redacted to avoid identifying the journalist):
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I do have an idea of how unethical posting your [type of correspondence] would be—if I was a journalist. However, I make no pretense of being one…. I don’t do any reporting or break stories. I don’t have sources—on or off the record.
But if a fact in a news story strikes me as wrong, I pluck it out for examination, sometimes doing research to determine whether numbers add up, references are correct, etc. … If I write a letter and get something back, I might put those up. Rather than a journalist, think of me more as Lazlo Toth without the funny.
In any case, I try not to write anything in email or elsewhere that I’d be ashamed of.
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The truth is, there are many precedents for publishing correspondence without consent. Apart from Don Novello (who’s been doing the Lazlo Toth gag since the Nixon administration), there are simple pranksters like Sterling Huck, Ted Nancy, and Paul Rosa. Apart from Novello’s politically-oriented work, that type of thing isn’t my particular interest, but it’s certainly something that’s been a thriving subgenre of publishing for over three decades.