Ex-NYT Editor, Wife Question Cancer Blogger, Outrage Ensues

Bill, Emma Keller wrote about Lisa Bonchek Adams
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2014 10:49 AM CST
Ex- NYT Editor, Wife Question Cancer Blogger, Outrage Ensues
Michael Moss, center, speaks in the newsroom of the New York Times Monday, April 12, 2010; at left is New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller.   (AP Photo/The New York Times, Richard Perry)

A pair of columns questioning a woman's very public battle with Stage IV breast cancer are lighting up the Internet. Former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller and his wife, writer Emma Gilbey Keller, both wrote pieces on Lisa Bonchek Adams, who is chronicling her fight via Twitter and her blog. Emma Keller's column (with a headline that compared Bonchek Adams' social media postings to "funeral selfies"), posted last week, was removed from the Guardian's website yesterday amid all the furor; Bill Keller's column was published in the Times yesterday. Both Kellers weigh various questions that seem to come down to this: Is Bonchek Adams engaging in "TMI"? And would it be better for someone like her to opt for a peaceful, quiet death instead of "heroic measures"? A sample of the reactions:

  • "[Emma] Keller seems to be concerned about whether Adams's decision to publicly discuss her diagnosis and treatment is 'dignified,' both for Adams ... and for Emma Keller personally. You see, a particularly intense series of updates from Adams apparently ruined the Kellers' Christmas, because Emma couldn't stop reading what Adams wrote, and that gives her complicated feelings," writes Abby Ohlheiser for The Wire. Ohlheiser refers to the Keller columns as "tag-team concern trolling," and goes on to quote the relevant portion of Emma Keller's piece: "As her condition declined, her tweets amped up both in frequency and intensity. I couldn't stop reading—I even set up a dedicated @adamslisa column in Tweetdeck—but I felt embarrassed at my voyeurism. Should there be boundaries in this kind of experience? Is there such a thing as TMI? Are her tweets a grim equivalent of deathbed selfies, one step further than funeral selfies?"
  • As for Bill Keller's column, "His point, like his wife's, is underinformed and muddled in a mess of condescension toward Adams's suffering and her work," writes Joe Coscarelli for Daily Intel. "Instead of using their respective positions of power to wrestle awkwardly with something that makes them uncomfortable, the Kellers could attempt to consider Adams' online presence on its own terms, or just unsubscribe."
  • There's much, much more—but in a response to the uproar posted on the Times website yesterday, Bill Keller insists he's also "heard from readers who understood the point and found it worth grappling with."
(More Bill Keller stories.)

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