Date: Mon, 11 Mar 2002
Subject: A few words
After the Star told me it was interested in Life on Hold, I asked my contact to print the article under a pseudonym as per your request. I told her to contact me if she had a problem with that, and I didn’t hear anything back until the article was published. I suppose I should have checked with her, but I’ve been shot down for following up on e-mail queries before since newspaper people prefer to respond in their own time, if at all. When the article was published, one of my friends who wrote the accompanying article let me know that my pseudonym hadn’t been used.
I e-mailed the Life section editor to find out what had happened. I received the following replies:
Dear Mr. Kanert,
N had told me about your request that your article appear under a pseudonym. We discussed The Star's policy, which is to only use false names when the writer's life could be in danger. The idea behind the policy is to protect The Star from someone fabricating a story or trying to hide behind anonymity and use us as a platform. In this case, you had originally written the piece using your actual name. She agreed to contact you again and discuss it with you. She said nothing further about it, other than to tell me the story was ready for publication. When I spoke to her this afternoon, after your email arrived, she told me that she had forgotten to get in contact with you and talk to you about changing the byline.
My apologies for the difficulties this must have caused you and your parents. I would be happy to communicate my apologies to them as well if you could tell me how to get in touch with them. It was never The Star's intention to cause anyone distress.
As I'm sure L has already told you, Michael, the publication of your byline was a huge oversight on my part. After you sent your mail, she asked me to confirm whether we could use your name or not and I'm afraid the request just got lost in the shuffle. I apologize to you and your parents if it has caused any inconvenience at all. Please have them contact me if they require any further explanation.
One Yonge St.
Toronto, ON M5E 1E6
You are free to take them up on their suggestions.
I only received a scanned copy of the printed article from a friend today, so I didn’t know how distressing they’d made the interior sub-headline. I had specifically used the words, “I told them I had considered killing myself” because they describe only what I said, not necessarily my actual thoughts. It’s a slight distinction but an important one as far as I’m concerned. It also wasn't the focus of the article. I’m not happy that they did what they did, but I’m not entirely surprised given that it does give the thing a sensational air that no newspaper could overlook. I haven’t yet decided whether I should take it up with them.
As for the content, the article needed to present the consequences of reactions and decisions for both students and parents. I took myself from my highest point to my lowest, along with the resulting conclusion, and I needed to show that the situation was not to be taken lightly by either party.
But anyone who reads the article and one-sidedly stands by the feelings I held at the time is missing half the point. That’s why it was so important for my friend to write his accompanying article: I put you both in an unfair situation.
You believed that I was limiting my future by changing degrees. I didn't have any material in favour of the change except for my feelings. As I said in the article, “I was flailing.” I had no direction. You were worried that I was going to make a rash decision based on a moment of aggravated emotion and did your best to stop me. I don't think most parents would have reacted differently. My failure was that I didn’t present any evidence that an English degree would lead to any kind of career. Yours was that you couldn’t let me go enough to let me make my own mistakes.
You’ve both always been like that, in your own ways.
As far as dealing appropriately with my emotional situation, nobody’s ever been able to do that. I will admit I was hoping for more on that occasion, but I sprung something on you completely without warning. Ideally, we should all have taken more time to talk things through, but I haven’t been very forthcoming or open for a long time, so there was really nothing you could have done. You couldn’t have understood how I felt because I refused to tell you. I honestly gave you no choice.
And if anyone discredits you for that lack of understanding, then you can tell them they’ve obviously never met me. I’m too afraid of being criticized to open up to anyone, and that's my own fault, not yours. Your only fault is in being authority figures to whom I’m even less likely to open up because your criticism bears that much more weight.
I suppose, if you need to put it into words, you could say the following:
“He never told us how he really felt.”
I only told you the results of my feelings.
PS: Sis, just tell everyone your brother’s crazy and carries a sword—I’m proud of both facts. But more importantly, don't dismiss this as something I did to put everyone in an awkward situation. It’s not easy being close to me, either by choice or by blood. Sorry I didn’t give you forewarning on this one, but the subject matter wasn’t exactly the kind of thing I could easily discuss with you.