When I met the blogger Luke Ford at a media party six years ago, I had no idea who he was. I certainly had no idea he would become my cyberstalker. He was just some guy – tallish and thin-ish, with a ruddy face and a disarming Australian accent.
I didn't remember what he and I had talked about that night, but I was soon reminded. The next day at work, I told my reporter friend Gaby about him. She rolled her eyes and said, “Look him up online.”
I typed in his name and there it was: the entire text of our conversation the previous night, including my maligning of the newspaper's top advertiser.
“Who is this guy?” I called out to Gaby.
“He used to cover the porn industry,” she said. After he converted to Judaism, she explained, he began covering the Jewish community, in particular Jewish media. “Don't pay any attention to him,” she said.
A new kind of ethics
But it was hard not to.
Luke Ford started writing about me on his blog, with some strange descriptions — including that I always wore skirts, which was flatly untrue.
I wasn't familiar with the ethics of blogging (or lack thereof) in terms of what someone can write about you – without fact-checking. It was exasperating to have these random claims and judgments about me out there for anyone to read. But complaining about it, as I discovered, only gave him more material:
“About 10 p.m., I was wandering around when I saw the young female managing editor of The Jewish Journal, Amy Klein, dressed as a black cat. I waved at her and she waved a reproving finger back: ‘Don't write about me on your blog!' she reprimanded. Rabbi Wolpe then walked by. Amy said to him, while pointing at me, ‘This man is dangerous. He has this blog where he writes about people.' ”
Time and again I heard friends say with alarm: “Hey, Amy! Did you know there's this guy on the Internet who writes all these things about you?”
“Yes, I know, he's my cyberstalker,” I would say with resignation.
Although in truth it was oddly flattering to have someone obsessed with me, even someone like Luke Ford.
My friends, suitors and editors were worried, but at this point he had been writing about me for years and never approached my residence or called or even sent me an e-mail message. “Don't worry,” I told them using my favorite “Hitchhiker's Guide” reference. “He's mostly harmless.”
Except that professionally he was causing me problems. He was always hounding our newspaper to cover scandals in the Jewish community. As a blogger he had “relaxed” standards as to sources, so people with axes to grind came to him and – voila! – he would give them a forum, and then I had to write a news story about it.
Writing about the blogger
Until another writer came along and wrote a story about Luke Ford, a development that displeased him.
“I always thought this article would come at the hands of Amy Klein,” he wrote. “I pictured us over lunch and how I would whip out my tape recorder when she started the on-the-record part of our conversation and all the brilliant justifications I'd give her for my abominable behavior. … But then my time came at the hand of 25-year-old Brad Greenberg. Brad's a good reporter, but he's no Amy Klein. … The whole thing didn't run anything like my fantasies.”
Brad was one of the young new additions to the newspaper. Another was Danielle Berrin, a tall, blond Floridian with a passion for this business that reminded me of … me, circa 1995. The minute I laid eyes on her, I knew she would one day replace me.
And my cyberstalker confirmed it. Under the headline, “The Jewish Journal Adds Sex Appeal,” he wrote, “I've had my share of fantasies about religion writer Amy Klein (who hasn't?). … But the times are a changing. The Jewish Journal now boasts Calendar Girls — a pair of hotties (Dikla Kadosh and Danielle Berrin).”
I suppose, according to Ford, I was still the gold standard to which all young reporters would be held up. But I was like Sophia Loren: classic, yet a thing of the past.
And so, when I finally left The Jewish Journal after seven years, I didn't think much about my cyberstalker. I was busy with my career, building a Web site and cataloging my hundreds of articles, which involved a lot of looking myself up online, which soon landed me back on Ford's blog.
I scrolled to the more-recent material, searching for the inevitable post about my departure.
But there was nothing. I kept returning, day after day, and there was never any mention of my leaving – nothing, in fact, about me at all.
And then, finally: “Amy Klein, Why Didn't You Tell Me?”
On he went:
“She left two weeks ago. Normally I have a satellite circling Amy from about 100 miles overhead, but I've been distracted of late. … Amy e-mailed everybody in her life, about 100 or so persons, but that list did not include your humble correspondent, oh my brothers.”
He cataloged my departure, my new projects, and the e-mail announcement I had sent. He wondered about my future career, why I hadn't told him, and what would happen to me.
“I miss you, baby!” he wrote.
Well, Luke, you might never guess it, but I'll miss you, too.