Monday, June 20
Dear Ms. McIntyre;
I deeply appreciate that this is a time of grief and shock for Dr. Payne’s family. However, my sole desire in writing about Rita’s death was to create dialogue and help open minds about the various causes of suicide. Dr. Payne was a public figure; she served the community. Her death has left that community–much like it must have left her family–struggling to find answers about what it means when a healer cannot heal herself.
When in pain and shock we respond in many ways, but to lash out at me is not the appropriate response. I’m just another one of Rita’s patients, trying to make sense of the senseless and struggling the same way the larger Morgantown community is struggling. Even though I never spent time with her in a social setting, her loss has left me very sad. When a life is lost, it is a tragedy. When someone as gifted as Dr. Payne–whose skills far surpassed the medical, surgical and professional–dies in this way, it is very difficult for anyone to understand.
With your email, I think it’s important to say that I don’t think you understand journalism. When someone commits suicide in a public place, or is a public figure, traditional news agencies report it. That is how we all came to know about Dr. Payne’s death. I merely opined in a general way about what takes people to a place where suicide occurs.
You see, as a journalist, I am a public servant, and that means I have an obligation to my readers, to help inform and enlighten them.
I have edited my column so that no reference to my book remains, except one (since it relates to my feelings of regret). Your own accusation of exploitation and self-promotion can now be withdrawn. However, the rest of the column will remain as it is until I retain legal counsel to advise me.
I have chosen not to include the names of Rita’s children, as you did in your email, out of respect for their privacy. Since their last names were not included in the obituary that was published, I am guessing they will not wish to be named here. Nor am I publishing the email I received from Dr. Payne’s ex-husband. But I am publishing your email.
* * *
On Sun, Jun 19, 2011 at 7:31 PM,
Dear Ms. Berry, I am Emailing because I feel that a letter via U S Mail would not reach you until Wednesday, and that this matter needs to be addressed immediately. I have been retained by the children of Rita Payne: (REDACTED). They are extremely upset that you are exploiting their mothers death for the promotion of your book and blog, then disguising it as concern for depressed women. Unless you have some type of written permission from Dr. Payne, I insist that you immediately desist in using their mother’s name or image. The children now legally stand in her stead and that is their desire.
I will believe that your intention was not malicious should you immediately withdraw the current publications that refer to Dr. Payne. Anyone who knew Dr. Payne, knew how much she loved her children. They are very upset with your behavior, especially at such a sorrowful and delicate time of their lives. You have overstepped your legal bounds. Rita was not a public figure and would very likely be appalled.
Anticipating Your Cooperation in this Matter,
Rhonda McIntyre, Attorney-at-Law
Counsel for (REDACTED)