Who’s Vetting John Hughes’s Pen Pal?

It is fascinating to learn that the late, great director John Hughes apparently had a teen-aged pen pal, Alison Byrne Fields, for a two-year period in the mid-1980s.

(To the left, that’s his signature from one of his missives to Fields, according to her blog.)

But another intriguing element of this story is the blazing speed with which the media are hopping all over the story. And, of course, that raises this basic question: Who is fact-checking all of this?

Fields posted her wonderfully told journey on her blog, “We’ll Know When We Get There,” on Thursday, the same day that Hughes died.

According to the time stamp on her blog, she began writing her piece at 4:41 p.m., about 45 minutes after she Tweeted that she would do so. The first comment on her post came shortly after 9 p.m., meaning she produced it in about four hours.

So her swift turn-around suggests:

A. Fields had already crafted much of the story, including the scanned images of Hughes’s letters to her, not to mention the fan club photos of actors like Molly Ringwald and Judd Nelson that she had received through her friendship with Hughes.

Was she simply waiting for an opportunity to share her experience, and Hughes’s death opened the door?

Or…

B. In a flurry of creativity amid her grief over Hughes’s death, Fields managed to whip up this moving blog post.

In either event, the timing of her blog, let alone the content, should spur on this question in any skeptically trained mind:

How do we know her account to be true? Has anyone independently verified Hughes’s handwriting? Did he ever talk about this pen pal with any of his family or friends?

I’d be interested in reading that story. And Fields, as a media-savvy individual who understands the tenets of journalism (check out her bio here), may well welcome such scrutiny.

For what it’s worth, if I had to bet a dollar, my gut instinct is this: I believe Fields is being truthful. Further, I believe she is a most insightful, gifted communicator. She is among a select group of people who would have the literary and technical ability to “write on deadline” in this manner.

But don’t take my word for any of that. As I commented at the end of the Washington Post Celebritology Q & A in which Jen Chaney interviewed Fields:

“This all has an authentic air, but I wonder how various media types are confirming the accuracy/credibility of Alison? That, to me, is a story unto itself–the process of confirming her pen-pal relationship actually occurred. If your mother tells you she loves you…check it out!”

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