(See: About that NCJ cover story)
I feel like I went through those Kübler-Ross stages of grief, albeit in a slightly different order:
Bargaining. Several days before publication, Hank was pestering me about being quoted in the story and I was trying to talk him out of writing it. I considered offering a quote about Surfrider and our planned etiquette signs, but opted against even that given his characterization of the story as a “wave exposé.” He thought I was silly. I tried to make him understand. We went round a few more times.
Denial. I thought maybe he was joking. I kept thinking he was joking. I asked him a bunch of times, “Are you really doing this?” He said, “I don’t know what to say to convince you. You’re probably going to be looking at the paper Wednesday asking, ‘Is this really the paper?'”
Anger. When the story came out and was not only poorly written, full of mis- or incomplete information, but included my name several times and, worst of all, my blog as a “surfing resource,” I was so mad. How could he do this?!
First of all, the blog listing put me in a category of people who publicize surf spots, which I never felt like I did, mostly because not that many people read it, I know most of the ones who do – and the surfers that read it already know way more than me.
Second, surfing is only a small part of what I write about. Although I primarily blog for myself, to keep some sort of record of my life and what matters in it, I never made the blog not public; sharing my writing is something I do and if people came across it, fine. I could see how many people read it, moderate the comments and never had a problem. In the Journal, the context was totally different. I was now in the same category as Wannasurf and roadtrip guidebooks, damn it. In a story supposedly about outing Humboldt surf spots, the spotlight on my blog is what hurt me the most. Having my name in there multiple other times, even with the disclaimer that I wouldn’t contribute to the story, made it worse, especially since the snarky tone of the piece colored the references to me with sarcasm – although Hank said in his radio interview with John Matthews that he wrote it that way to ensure no one would think I’d slipped him info through my role as a Journal contributor.
On the plus side, nice calls from Mark and Ali – and the number of people saying some form of “We’ve got your back,” surprised and relieved me. Is this really all such a big deal? Probably not. But for a few days, I hovered just shy of a full-blown anxiety attack.
Depression. And why such anxiety? I mean, really, given all the really heavy shit I deal with as a parent, as a friend, as a individual, how can I even justify stressing out over a story about surf spots, much less my little blog? Because I did. Lost sleep, was pierced by headaches, stomach in knots. My gut instinct was to delete the blog – after saving the work – but even with the words safely stored, I found myself shaking, panicked, grieving. Totally stupid and embarrassing to admit.
But I think it’s because in all this great big life that I have, this hugely rewarding, interesting, fortunate life, the two currents that run the deepest, mean the most, provide a path to whatever it is to be essentially me, are surfing and writing. Yes, the kids are the ultimate love; they matter most in the end – but for pure Jennifer, the ocean and words hold the parts of me I most care about. To have both surfing and writing threatened simultaneously, especially when my hold on both is ever tenuous at best – is it a wonder I panicked?
Acceptance. I couldn’t avoid discussing the story. Hank wanted to Google chat. We held a movie night (a great movie night with Dear & Yonder!) the day after the issue streeted. People were pissed. On both the waves’ behalf and mine. John Matthews interviewed Hank and wanted me to be part of it. I refused, obviously, but a couple people I know called in and spoke well on both my behalf and for North Coast surfers overall.
Speaking of that interview, they both emphasized how they’re my good friends. Jeez. I mean, they are friends, but something about listening to them say that as they discussed my feelings on air made me think maybe I should cultivate more friends outside of the journalism field.
Wes at Greenhouse gave me a huge hug when I dropped off some Surfrider shirts. “We’re so sorry you have to deal with this.” People posted nice things in various blog comment threads. A longtime, local surf friend said, “Bottom line is you did the right thing and those who know and care think MORE of you.” Stress level dropped. I got some sleep.
And the irony? Hank’s mission was to “expose” the stupidity of surf secrecy and highlight Humboldt’s surf spots out of spite (my interpretation, granted). But his story itself was stupid and contained no new or difficult-to-find information (yay). Ultimately, the only person he really hurt and only thing he actually exposed was me and my blog.