Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Mainstream Media Bias Enters Birthing Debate

My great college journalism professor, Michael Walsh, made it his mission to enlighten his students about the big black cloud of mainstream media bias at large within American journalism. I'm not talking editorial writing or even news reported from a publication with overt political sympathies (i.e. most of the UK broadsheet press), but the tendency for news reporters from "apolitical" sources to shun balanced factual reporting in exchange for stories that perpetuate or support a "hidden agenda."

The problem with this type of reporting is its widespread distribution of essentially skewed information to the public at large.

Earlier this week, the popular Today Show ran a short feature entitled The Perils of Home Birth that wreaked of journalistic bias. The feature, broadcast to millions, suggests that home births are becoming a popular, but risky fad amongst young urban professionals. The report doesn't include any interviews with certified midwives but instead gives air time to New York Magazine journalist Andrew Goldman who likens home childbirth to a “spa treatment.” It also exploits the single, sad story of a young couple who lost their daughter during a home birth - an incident that could well have occurred in a hospital. The report seemingly plays into the agenda of ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)and its growing vendetta against midwives and out of hospital births. Riki's Lake's The Business of Being Born film is referenced in the feature, and she responds to the report on her site. The American College of Nurse Midwives, similarly disappointed, responds here.

I keep mentioning my interest in learning more about home birth, but stern voice over stories like this that cater to fear factor and emotion rather than fact are not inspiring or helpful. Shame on the Today Show. Rather than dig deeper into the pluses and minuses of home birth or explore the reasons for ACOG's firm stance against it, they threw honest journalism to the dogs.

It's times like this when I'm grateful for the UK's professional acceptance of home birth and efforts of NHS professionals, like my local midwife, to allow women to explore the facts and make informed choices.
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