Update, December 16, 2019: The story of the woman who discovered her husband was cheating on her via a photo that accompanied a restaurant review in the Washington Post sounded almost too good to be true. Especially since she thanked the reviewer, Tom Sietsema, during his weekly online chat. But it brought so much joy to everyone during Thanksgiving week, it seemed churlish to be suspicious.
But it was too good to be true! It was a hoax! We are all suckers. Is nothing sacred anymore?
The hoax was revealed after the Post reached out to the original commenter for more details. The paper used her IP address to confirm that it was indeed her. And then she ’fessed up. She wasn’t a relieved divorcee. She was a 40-something D.C. lawyer who had long wondered about the people who show up in the background of restaurant review photos. Surely one of them could be a cheater, right? Inspired and emboldened by happy hour, she decided to write in.
The Post went on to interview photojournalists and a researcher at the Kinsey Institute who specializes in the biochemistry of love. The experts all reassured the reporter that, with all the cell phone and security cameras around these days, it was a perfectly plausible scenario and there is no real privacy in public anymore. So we all shouldn’t feel stupid.
But I do anyway. Damn it!
Original post, December 2, 2019: During his weekly live chat with readers last Wednesday, the Washington Post’s restaurant critic Tom Sietsema learned that he had inadvertently participated in his paper’s long tradition of investigative reporting with tangible results.
“Well Tom,” one reader began, “your latest review is accompanied by a picture of my husband dining with a woman who isn’t me! Once confronted with photographic evidence, he confessed to having an ongoing affair. Just thought you’d be amused to hear of your part in the drama. This Thanksgiving I’m grateful to you for exposing a cheat!”
Although this appeared to be a message of genuine gratitude, Sietsema didn’t take it that way.
“Please, please, please tell me this is a crank post,” he wrote back. “I’d hate to learn otherwise. I file two reviews a week, for Food and the Magazine, so I’m not sure which restaurant this is.”
Tom, did you not read the note? The restaurant is not the point! You (or your photographer) exposed a cheater and perhaps saved this woman from several more years of an unhappy marriage. You should be proud! This is what journalism, at its best, is for. Well, in a larger general sense. But still.