The changing rules of outingS

David Carr of the New York Times criticized gossipy Gawker items on Shep Smith which outed the Fox News anchor, first in passing and then more explicitly with a picture of his significantly younger boyfriend. But the Times — having said such articles are redundant and dated — is now ahead 3-2 in articles devoted to the supposedly passe subject of his sexuality and the ethics of reporting on it.

The basic Gawker argument is this, only a truly perverted standard would deem same-sex relationships too private to be mentioned. If a person's romantic partner is nothing to be ashamed of, then we should not be ashamed to write it. Even if one of the parties is still ashamed, we should behave as if we were already in that future world in which it really didn't matter. And the latest Times writer to venture an opinion — the third — seems to agree.

No matter, the rules of outing have evolved, from a controversial strong-arming strategy to a simple declarative of a person's sexual orientation. If Mr. Smith had been at the bar with a female companion, no doubt the pair would have been mentioned in a similarly gossipy news item and as a side note we'd likely assume that he's straight. For instance, how often have we read about George Clooney's girlfriends, notably Monika (the "Croatian Sensation") Jakisic described by Us Weekly as "a stunner" in "cleavage-baring lingerie …." Or consider Camille Grammer of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," whose ex-boyfriend has been described variously as a "Greek god" and showing off his "ab-tastic physique." Both straight by association.