Summary (Warning – links may contain victim’s real name)
As some of you know, Twitter and the blogosphere exploded overnight in outrage because a local news station in a podunk Northeastern Pennsylvania town had a slow news day and decided, in a bout of yellow journalism at its worst, to ‘out’ a a 25-year veteran of the public school system there as an erotic romance writer. To say that people are angry is the understatement of the year.
Judy Mays writes romance novels for Ellora’s Cave / Jasmine Jade Enterprises. (Disclaimer: I take issue with the business practices of EC / JJ and personally choose not to buy their books, but that should have no bearing on its authors outside of those who own/run the company, and I have no problem with people who choose to buy from them.) Her daytime job as a high school English teacher and her part-time job as an author have never, to public knowledge as of late, collided until now. In other words, there was no contributing factor or a “need-to-know” reason for WNEP and its reporter, Kena Vernon, to expose Judy Mays to public moral condemnation and job scrutiny.
(EDIT: Apparently the school IS conducting an investigation because of the complaints, according to this news article. Sad, but true.)
I don’t think I need to overstate the potential for grievous harm to a public school teacher’s career when angry, overzealous, narrow-minded parents complain to their school board about adults corrupting their children. Despite the fact that Judy has done nothing illegal or immoral and has kept her two incomes completely separate, stupid people – and the news station – are drumming up controversy so much that there will supposedly be an investigation at her school. I need a source on that one besides the comments on the story itself, if anyone has one.
It genuinely puzzles me how anyone can think that by simply talking, writing, or studying something, that subject automatically ‘stains’ you. Is my history teacher a fascist because he teaches about the Axis? Is it now wrong for a for FBI agent to teach middle school because she used to profile serial killers? Does Stephen King go on killing sprees because he writes about them?
I’m sure Nabokov received a lot of flak for writing Lolita. In fact, judging by some tweets I’ve seen today, I’m fairly sure he still does, even though he’s dead. This didn’t stop him from being one of the best English professors ever, never mind one of the finest writers of the 20th century.
This might have been a story if Mays was selling her books to kids, especially on school grounds. This might have been a story if she were basing her adult characters on teens. (I mean, in a way that made them identifiable as real people, not just vague similarities — lots of people have the name John or a hatred of authority or like to play Xbox. Sorry.) This might even have been a story if she made a lot of money from romance ebooks, although many other interviews with much more reputable news organizations have done interviews with authors and respected their rights to privacy and/or pseudonyms.
This is not a story, however, because some angry or bitter mother of a teenage boy is paranoid and decides that a woman’s second job makes her unqualified to do her first one. No, the real story here is how an investigative journalism team decided to ruin a woman’s career for the sake of web hits and news rankings.
How You Can Help
1. First and foremost, talk about this! Email the story, blog about it, tweet it, etc. #supportjudymays @wnep #judymays #privacyfail #YesEroticWritersAreAllowedInChurch #behindthescenes
There’s a Facebook Support Page as well, although it does list her real name in it.
2. Second, you can contact the news station that broadcast this “story.” I don’t think they’ll be sympathetic to requests for an apology or retraction at this point, despite the fact that they SHOULD, because they’re deleting comments in support of Judy Mays on their Facebook page.
3. You can contact WNEP’s advertisers and let them know how displeased you are that they are sponsoring an ethically dubious organization and that their ads are appearing on a page slandering a woman for her private life.
Sponsors (links that appeared on the story page during the first few times I opened it, there are probably more):
Foss Jewelers (Snyder County)
888 Route 522
Selinsgrove, PA 17870
Valley Dental Group
Valley Dental Group P.C.
5 Commerce Ave.
Selinsgrove, PA 17870
Scranton Auto Service
609 Pittston Avenue
Scranton, PA 18508
Scranton Auto Service Blog
Other Ads Appearing on WNEP-TV:
*ETA 01: Here’s a link to Judy’s books if you want to support the author.
Judy Mays: like a PUNCH IN THE FACE to smear campaigns.
**ETA 02: The school is conducting an actual investigation because of the complaints. The superintendent will not comment. Apparently, the mothers discovered the existence of Judy Mays, author through rumors some of her students circulated.
I’m going to write a follow-up post on the privacy implications of this entire situation and what it means for all authors in the U.S.
***ETA 03: I’ve created a link round-up. The privacy post should be up sometime on Friday.