Emma Gilbey Keller has resigned from The Guardian

Several months after her controversial column was removed from its website, Emma Gilbey Keller has formally resigned from The Guardian.

“I haven’t written for The Guardian by my own choice since they took my column down in January before contacting or consulting me,” Keller told Poynter in an email. “I thought long and hard about whether or not to continue working for them and eventually decided to resign, which I formally did last month.”

The Guardian confirmed Keller’s resignation.

Keller was a Guardian contributor since January 2012, hosting its lifestyle series “The Living Hour” among other duties. In January of this year, Keller wrote about the public way Lisa Bonchek Adams, who has Stage 4 breast cancer, was chronicling her experience with the disease over Twitter and on her blog.

Several days later, her husband, former New York Times executive editor and columnist Bill Keller, also wrote a column about Adams. Neither column was particularly sympathetic to Adams – many thought they came off as critical (especially Bill’s, which implied that people with cancer were more heroic if they suffered in stoic silence) – and Adams herself expressed her displeasure with both columns. Emma’s, she said, used quotes that Adams gave months ago as part of what she thought was a private conversation. Adams said she had no idea Keller was planning on writing about her until the column went online. She also said both articles contained inaccuracies; the Times column sported a correction about the number of Adams’ kids.

Emma’s article was soon taken down, and a column from Guardian’s reader’s editor Chris Elliott explained why:

“I don’t think it is wrong to frame a question about how those with incurable illnesses use social media, but the Guardian was wrong in the way it went about it,” he wrote, adding that he would like Adams to have a chance to write a response and did not want to put Keller’s article back up until she did. As Adams was busy going through cancer treatments, he did not think this would be possible “for some time.”

The article has yet to be restored, and Keller has not written for The Guardian since, save a response to Elliott in the comments in which she maintained that “several of the items some readers objected to were inserted by editors without my knowledge or approval” and “there are lines in it that were not even written by me. I saw the final version when everyone else did.” Keller concluded by extending her “deepest sympathy for Lisa Adams condition and I am sincerely sorry that this situation has caused her so much distress.”

“I am sorry that Emma Keller feels that she was let down by the Guardian,” Elliott writes in an email to Poynter. “From the moment her column was launched Guardian US was aware of the problems, Lisa Bonchek Adams and her supporters let the Guardian know from the outset of their concerns.” He continues:

A senior Guardian US editor liased with her and Emma Keller to discuss the problems. Because the complaints were serious and not resolved it came to me in London. When I looked at it, I acted as I have outlined in my column, clumsily certainly although it is absolutely not true to say that Keller hadn’t been consulted about the problems with the column. I took it down about 6 pm GMT and spoke to her about 20 minutes later – it is my understanding that she was warned about the possible consequence of the column coming down by a US colleague but she says she wasn’t.

These days, Keller says, she’s working on “several reporting and writing projects … in various stages of readiness for publication.” Asked for specifics on where we can expect to see her writing next, Keller responded “everywhere!”

One place we probably won’t be seeing her anytime soon is Twitter. Keller hasn’t tweeted since Jan. 10, when she was in the middle of the backlash against her for the column (much of which took place on Twitter). “I found that I prefer Instagram,” she said.

“I wish The Guardian all the best with their American enterprise,” Keller concluded. “And that’s all I have to say.”

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  • http://patthorntonfiles.com Patrick Thornton

    This situation was not handled well. Editors could have raised concerns before publication. If they felt that op-ed contributors should be given wide latitude, then I think the correct action would be to post and keep the column and then let Keller go. It was probably the stupidest column I have ever read (until her husband topped it). I would be ashamed to work for a news organization that posted that column.

    But I don’t think you should censor columnists stupidity, just stop letting them write for you.

  • jud50

    Yes, absolutely.

  • http://doran.pacifist.net/ Doran

    I’m also interested in the claim that more than just the headline wasn’t written by Keller. If true, that seems relevant to this, particularly since this was a column and not a regular news story.

  • jud50

    Let’s put aside the criticism of both Keller columns and talk about the role that editors play. It is their job to make sure that content complies with whatever the guidelines are of their publications. Reporters and columnists don’t work in a vacuum, esp. on respectable news outlets like The Guardian and the NYT. If Emma’s boss(es) had a problem with anything in her column, it should have been brought to her attention before being published, jnstead of letting her fall on her sword. We all know that typically, reporters/columnists don’t write their own heds, so blaming Emma for the “dying” hed is ridiculous, unless she was notified in advance and signed off on it. I think The Guardian editors, with respect to Emma’s column are to blame. And while I don’t condone using off-the-record remarks for publication, my understanding, from reading the various stories and twitter feed relating to her column, is that she used a very innocuous comment from Lisa, not something that was libelous or harmful in any way.

  • http://www.mbcn.org/ Katherine OBrien

    To live with Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) is to embrace uncertainty—you don’t know if a drug will work, how long it will work and how you will tolerate it. You just
    take it one day at a time. There is no wrong or right way to live with
    metastatic breast cancer–there is only the way that works best for YOU.

    As someone with MBC, Gilbey and Keller’s ignorance of the MBC facts of life is frustrating. I hope this video will set them straight:

    http://animoto.com/play/pp9bg5hNO4Y1l5WJAfVcWA

    You can find the PowerPoints featured in the video here:

    “MBC 101,” PowerPoint (RS Miller, 2011): http://mbcn.org/images/uploads/RSMiller_MBC101.pdf

    “Why Mets Matter,” PowerPoint (M Mayer, 2011) http://advancedbc.org/files/Mayer_NBCC_2011_0.pdf

  • justaguy

    Emma Gilbey’s column about Lisa Adams was just stupid and insensitive. Bill Keller’s was not only stupid — in addition to a string of errors, he implied that Adams got the services of therapy dogs as a quid pro quo for favorable publicity in her blog for Sloan Kettering (!) — but cruel and unethical. For him to savage Adams by innuendo without making clear that his wife had been severely criticized for her column about Adams is clearly against NYT policy. But there are different rules there for the mighty.
    Lisa Adams continues to live with her dignity intact. Emma Gilbey and Bill Keller are too narcissistic and obtuse to realize how much of theirs they lost in this episode.