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Would you trash your best friend for democracy?

Updated: January 22, 2021

Before class (20 minutes)

Read “Ivanka Trump was my best friend. Now she’s MAGA royalty.”

Class time needed

20-30 minutes

Categories/Tags: Privacy, public figures, ethics

Learning objectives

At the conclusion of this activity, participants will be able to:

  • Distinguish between public and private figures
  • Examine the impact of first-person opinion pieces on a journalism career
  • Consider how professional relationships evolve

Issue overview

In a November 2020 Vanity Fair piece, a freelance journalist who says she was Ivanka Trump’s best friend through adolescence roasts her former friend, calling the Trump family a danger to democracy and expressing shame “for not holding my former friend to account” sooner.

Background

Lysandra Ohrstrom a Brooklyn-based freelance journalist whose Twitter bio states that she covers the U.S. and the Middle East, wrote “Ivanka Trump was my best friend. Now she’s MAGA royalty.”

The piece outlines the friendship between the two, from middle school through college: “for more than a decade, more sisters than best friends.” The author stood as Trump’s maid of honor during her 2009 wedding. Now, however, Ohrstrom says she watched as Trump appointed herself to the role of “unelected public official and (began) to torch democracy.” Ohrstrom also writes that while she misses her friend, “I miss the time when the Trump family quest for power was not dangerous to the country.”

A photo of the author and Ivanka in the December 1997 issue of Sassy magazine.

The author says that the pair spent Trump’s 13th birthday weekend with other teens at a suite at dad’s Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. They traveled together to Paris and South America. They posed as a pair in a magazine spread — you know, normal bestie stuff. Ohrstrom writes about Donald Trump’s comments about her weight and his daughter’s looks, and she recounts a story about him shaming her over a grilled cheese sandwich.

She also says of her piece: “Although friends and family have warned that this article won’t be received the way I want, I think it’s past time that one of the many critics from Ivanka’s childhood comes forward—if only to ensure that she really will never recover from the decision to tie her fate to her father’s.”

Discussion questions

  1. Think of a time that you or someone you care for was held accountable in a public way — either positively or negatively. What was the impact of that experience on the relationship between the person held accountable and others involved? On the person’s image/ reputation? On their behavior moving forward?
  2. As you think about sharing private, personal information in your work as a journalist, what values are most important to you? What would you wrestle with?
  3. If given the opportunity to publish a similarly personal, private story at your school, what considerations would go into your decision?
  4. Do you think this piece was journalism, entertainment or something else? What makes you say that?
  5. What about the childhood photos the author shared, and think about the photos of you and your friends on your camera roll right now. Do you think Ivanka Trump should expect some privacy protections from having those photos shared? Why or why not?
  6. The author said she wrote the piece to hold her former friend to account. Do you think she met those goals?
  7. How do you think the opinions expressed in this piece will impact this freelance journalist’s job prospects in the future?

For further reading