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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Thursday, August 3, 2006

The 'liberal' US media strikes again.

This time, the culprit is National Public Radio reporter Jacqueline Froelich, who on Monday's broadcast of Morning Edition uncritically swallowed an old right-wing canard about the supposed damage suffered by children raised in lesbian and gay families.

Froelich let the assertion pass in her report on the Arkansas Supreme Court's ruling that it was unconsitutional for the state to bar lesbians and gay men fromn being foster parents. The assertion itself — that thousands of studies 'prove' that gay and lesbian families are bad for kids — came out of the mouth of GOP state senator Jim Holt. Here's the transcript:

FROELICH: But Republican state Senator Jim Holt says the courts have overstepped their jurisdiction and did not look at all the evidence.

HOLT: The judge had said there are no studies that show that the homosexual family or the environment is problematic for the child. And there are thousands of studies; actually, I've got over 10,000, here, that show just the opposite.

FROELICH: That figure, 10,000 studies, is frequently cited by children's psychologist and Christian conservative Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. Senator Holt relied on that statistic and other data when he co-sponsored a failed bill seeking a ban on gay foster parents and adoption in 2005. Now he's counting on the 2007 legislature to reinstate a ban.

10,000 studies? As Media Matters points out, researchers would have had to issue a study with every day since 1979 for Holt's figure to be accurate. Instead of challenging Holt's figure, Froelich let it pass with merely a reference to its source — the well-known scientific authority James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family. (Dobson, incidentally, has never come up with sources to back up his repeated contention that these studies exist.) The failure of Froelich or her NPR editor to fact-check Holt's comment any further than linking it to Dobson's unsupported 'statistic' is pretty sloppy journalism.

What makes this sloppiness even more unforgivable is that it's not hard to find studies of lesbian and gay families that gainsay Hill and Dobson's contentions. From Media Matters again:

For example, a 2002 [American Academy of Pediatrics} Technical Report found that:

A growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with 1 or 2 gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual. Children's optimal development seems to be influenced more by the nature of the relationships and interactions within the family unit than by the particular structural form it takes.

In a July 2004 policy statement "oppos[ing] any discrimination based on sexual orientation in matters of adoption, child custody and visitation, foster care, and reproductive health services," the APA asserted that "results of research suggest that lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children." Similarly, an October 2005 WebMD article reported that according to findings presented at the October 2005 American Academy of Pediatrics Conference and Exhibition, "[c]hildren growing up in same-sex parental households do not necessarily have differences in self-esteem, gender identity, or emotional problems from children growing up in heterosexual parent homes." In addition, a January 2005 New York Times article (subscription required) noted the assessment of Dr. Judith Stacey, a sociology professor at New York University, that "there is not a single legitimate scholar out there who argues that growing up with gay parents is somehow bad for children."

Having been a broadcast editor myself, I know that time considerations undoubtedly played a role in the failure of Froelich to challenge Hill in her report. NPR editors can be brutal in shaving a story down to fit the time available for it. But my experience also tells me that the story could have been edited like this:

HOLT: The judge had said there are no studies that show that the homosexual family or the environment is problematic for the child. And there are thousands of studies; actually, I've got over 10,000, here, that show just the opposite.

FROELICH: That figure , 10,000 studies, is frequently cited by children's psychologist and Christian conservative originated with Christian conservative Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, who has never provided sources for his number. Nonethless, Senator Holt relied on that statistic and other data when he co-sponsored a failed bill seeking a ban on gay foster parents and adoption in 2005. Now he's counting on the 2007 legislature to reinstate a ban.

And even though that's just a first try, right off the top of my head, it would make less than five seconds of difference to the story's running time. I'm sure that Froelich and an NPR editor could have come up with a better script with more time. Unfortunately, neither Froelich or an editor bothered to do this when prepping the story for Monday's Morning Edition.

I guess checking the facts is a bit too ideological for NPR these days. Especially when the 'facts' originate with someone who has a friend in the White House.

| | Posted by Magpie at 2:38 PM | Get permalink




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