Shameless Journalist Syndrome

A four-sentence squib in the New York Post announcing the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation’s new National Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury Plan to raise awareness of such dangers as Shaken Baby Syndrome suffers from the Post‘s well-documented predilection for less-than-tasteful headlines–in this case: “Kids Get a Fair Shake“. The foundation’s communications director, Jennipher Dickens, has responded (1/12/09) with an open letter asking what’s so funny about the “No. 1 cause of death and disability for children in the U.S.”:

the very idea that a newspaper editor would think it was clever to refer to the most devastating form of child abuse in such an offhand, callous way is beyond hurtful and unacceptable. There is no other way to define their actions other than it being an intentional mockery of the trauma children and their families suffer.

As a former newspaper reporter myself, I know the reporter who wrote the story was not responsible for the offensive headline. However, also as a former reporter, I know the mentality of the people who do come up with newspaper headlines–to capture the audience and sensationalize the piece in order to sell newspapers. While this is of course standard practice, it is not at all acceptable when it comes to child abuse resulting in brain injury!

Looking for a positive outcome from the situation, Dickens thinks the paper “should not only print an apology… but they should also devote an entire section of their Sunday edition to the first-ever National Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury Plan.” She ends with a suggestion: “If you feel the same way, please be sure to call, email or send a letter to: Mr. Col Allan, Editor-in-Chief… 212-930-8000… colallan@nypost.comletters@nypost.com.”