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Medford was off Sunday and Monday, so a meeting was called for Tuesday afternoon. St. George and three editors, including Medford and Brenner, the editor who had passed on the original tip, gathered in the office of Robert McCartney , the assistant managing editor in charge of metropolitan news. Metro Desk Editor Davis participated by speakerphone.

St. George summarized the situation and McCartney, who had been alerted to the rough outline of the story over the weekend, asked the questions St. George had been asking herself all weekend: “What do the people who know him say? Was there a partner? Was there a partner? What about his family?” [1] Though the Post had established guidance for printing someone’s sexual orientation when the subject was alive (relevance to the article plus consideration of the subject’s wishes) it did not squarely address a situation where there was no way to ascertain the person’s wishes after death. With six journalists in a room, St. George says, the discussion was “ping-ponging all over the place.” McCartney asked, “Is anybody asking us not to publish the story?” No, replied St. George. Shay Hill, Rogers’ beneficiary, did not actively oppose it.

At that, McCartney felt that the story should run. “It was newsworthy,” he says. Rogers was believed to be the “highest ranking gay combat casualty in Iraq. And there was a public policy reason for running it, which was how this guy led this double life in the military. So I was eager to run it at that point.” At the same time, McCartney was concerned that outing Rogers posthumously without his consent presented an ethical and possibly legal dilemma. The Tuesday meeting ended with the Metro editors no closer to a decision. They agreed to consult the Post ’s general counsel, Eric Lieberman.

The lawyer. St. George contacted Lieberman and spoke to him on Wednesday morning. Lieberman told her that the fact that Rogers’ beneficiary was not actively opposing publication didn’t resolve the issue: It was not Hill’s decision. Lieberman said that this was not a legal issue, but an ethical one, to be decided using journalistic judgment. In the end, Lieberman advised against identifying Rogers as gay in the article. St. George summarizes Lieberman’s advice to her editors: “He votes no [because] we don’t know enough about his wishes, and if we’re wrong it’s irreparable.”

McCartney’s memo. The team was no closer to a decision than it had been going into the weekend. Meanwhile, it had been five days since the Arlington burial and some of St. George’s sources were calling to ask when the story would run.

McCartney raised the issue with Leonard Downie, Jr. , the paper’s executive editor. McCartney felt that the piece should run as written—meaning it did identify Rogers as gay. Late on Wednesday, McCartney sent Downie a memo about the situation. McCartney felt it was clear that Rogers was gay and should be identified as such, and that any doubt about his openness came not from Rogers but from the military’s injunction on openly gay people serving in its ranks.

Rogers, McCartney wrote, “led a carefully divided life, keeping his sexual orientation secret in the army but quietly supporting organizations that battle ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’” His actions outside the service, especially his AVER membership, McCartney explained, proved Rogers’ real intentions: “He served for a year as an officer in the organization, he wrote his thesis on the subject. His [retired] gay military friends and acquaintances would like him to be identified as gay. We believe that the executor of Rogers’ will, who is also heir to his estate, does not oppose publication.”

In his memo to Downie, McCartney also acknowledged that some pieces were still missing. “We haven’t asked [the heir] directly [about publishing this information] but we can do so,” he wrote. After assuring Downie that St. George and her editors would check into any possible consequences to Rogers’ estate should his sexuality be made public, McCartney concluded with a firm recommendation:

To my mind, the fact that he was an officer and volunteer for the gay/lesbian veterans organization suggests he was comfortable about being identified as gay. More importantly, I think the unknowable risk of dishonoring Rogers’ desires and thus committing an ethical violation is outweighed by the news value and public policy importance of describing how a senior Army officer with a promising career led a double life because of the US military’s controversial secrecy policy regarding homosexuals. I recommend publishing it, balancing these two competing things.

[1] Author’s interview with Robert McCartney, October 1, 2008, in Washington, DC. All quotes from McCartney, unless otherwise attributed, are from this interview.