Can You Use Your Spouse as a Source?

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Q: I have a feature idea that includes interviewing an interesting, successful TV/film art director for an architecture or home design magazine. My problem is, he’s my husband. Ethically, does this prevent me from writing and submitting this story?—Corrie A.

A: While this feels Dear Abby-esque, it’s legitimate to question your ethics when writing a story about a family member or close friend (or long-time enemy, for that matter). Ethics deal with your own values, so whether this breaks your own ethical code is up to you. But here are a few things to consider before making your decision.

Biases can come into play when writing about a loved one, which can compromise the credibility of the article. If you were writing a story about your husband for Redbook, you can be more emotional because that fits the magazine’s writing style. But if you’re interviewing him for an article in a home design magazine, treat him like anyone else you’d interview for that magazine. Get all the facts—don’t misinform folks.

Also, be honest with editors when submitting your query letter. When you tell them about the article, make it clear that the interview subject is your husband. Then, explain why he’s an important fit to the article. When in doubt, let the editor make the decision.

Brian A. Klems is the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at WritersDig@fwpubs.com with “Q&Q” in the subject line. Come back each Tuesday as I try to give you more insight into the writing life.

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