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Tampa Bay Times has blood on its hands as woman with sexual disorder it featured commits suicide

By on December 4, 2012

The Tampa Bay Times has blood on its hands tonight.

A woman who was featured in a Tampa Bay Times story that dealt with a rare sexual disorder was found dead of suicide late Saturday at her home in Spring Hill, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s officials did not provide details about how or when Gretchen Molannen died, but she was last seen alive Thursday at 11:30 p.m. Records show deputies responded to a suicide call about midnight Saturday night. The Times received emails from two of her friends confirming her death and lamenting that she wasn’t able to get the help she needed.

The Times’ reporting of the woman’s suicide, of course, makes it sound as if the newspaper did her a favor by featuring her in its new Floridian section.

Before publication, the Times thanked her over the phone and in an email for her help. She replied by email on Nov. 28:

“Thank YOU for taking an interest in doing a story for me! I am flattered that you cared so much to want to help. I just hope this will educate people that this is serious and really exists, and that other women who are suffering in silence will now have the courage to talk to a doctor about it. If men have suffered with the shame of impotence or even priapism, now it’s time for women to get help as well. Thank you for your patience with me and for devoting so much time to this. I’m sure your editor is very proud of your work and I’m excited to see my own story online.”

While none of us will likely ever really know why Molannen committed suicide, we can all do the math. Woman tells story to the newspaper. Newspaper publishes sensational story. Woman commits suicide the day the story is published online.

One plus one equals blood on the Times‘ hands.

The moment I read this story I questioned why it was being published by the Times, other than the story’s obvious ability to drive readership and online traffic.

This story, simply put, did not belong in the Times. No matter how good the writing, no matter how interesting the subject matter, a story about a woman “who must masturbate for hours for just a few minutes of relief” did not belong in a mainstream newspaper.

Whether the coverage of her condition drove her to kill herself or seeing her story told was how she wished to end her life, the Times is partially responsible for what has happened.

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