Here's a new ethical conundrum for Randy Cohen, advice columnist for the New York Times magazine's Ethicist: is a letter-writer obligated to tell an advice columnist that their ethical dilemma has already been dealt with by the same paper? We were wondering if the Ethicist stole a letter from the Social Qs column that runs in the Sunday Styles—after all, they printed the same question this week that appeared in the Styles in September. Well, we heard from Beth Rose Feurstein, the woman who sent the question to both columns, which involved a blind date who turned out to be a serial blind-date-canceller who kept invoking the same "got hit while riding my bicycle and ended up in the ER" excuse. And she says when the Times fact-checker called, she didn't bother to let them know that the question had already run:
I read your response to my question appearing in two places....in the Social Q column and NYTimes magazine [Ethicist] (yes...I hit the big time!!). Rest assured that Randy Cohen did not pilfer the question... I was anonymous (until now!) in the Social Q column...and basically wasn't anonymous in the NYT magazine this past weekend. I am sure that pilfering does occur in the journalistic world but in this case....it didn't happen.
I would have thought that columnists cross check to make sure that the same letter (or virtually the same letter/content) doesn't appear twice in such a short period of time....but hey...I'm under stress myself (my dad has been in the hospital for the past 3 weeks and will be discharged today)...so when I got "the call" ...first from the Social Q editor and then from The Ethicist....I wasn't asked if my question had already appeared. I really didn't think it was my responsibility to alert anyone and I do like seeing my meager writings/submissions published!!!! This was kind of a high point to a very stressful awful month and a half (of hosptilizations for my dad....first one hosp. then another...but that's a whole other story and possible fodder for The Ethicist!!!! Haha)
We're sure the Times sees the humor in it, too.