Adoption Beat

June 8, 2008

Points of View?

Filed under: Improving media coverage of adoption — adoptionbeat @ 6:21 am

I want to salute a colleague’s blog post!

73Adoptee (there’s a link to her blog at right) did an abbreviated content analysis of adoption coverage comparing three major media using their own on-line search engines. Granted this methodology has some limits because the paper content and the on-line content differ, and search engines are only as accurate as the programming is consistent. She noted that her search parameters failed to turn up at least one article that she was aware of — this is something that I have often encountered when trying to find an article that someone told me about or find a second time something I realized I SHOULD have saved. I have often had trouble finding an article even when I had the exact headline and or author’s name and date of publication. But her quick survey only confirms something triad members already know — media coverage is skewed. A more extensive content analysis would no doubt produce similar results.

She writes:

“The vast majority of media coverage about adoption completely ignores the viewpoints of those most affected by it: adult adoptees and their birth kin.”

She’s absolutely right.

I have another colleague who, a few weeks ago, suggested that this is largely our own fault. She said that we should call the media on the mistakes they make. Her major concern was the media’s use of insensitive language. And while she has a point, language — specifically adoption terminology — is something that we don’t all agree on within the adoption reform community and we are sometimes guilty of applying pejorative terms to other members of the triad ourselves. At the height of the age of political correctness, it surprizes me that the media is not more sensitive. But what really bothers me is that too many of the news media’s stories are not fair because they are not balanced.

While this is not our fault, there may be something we can do about it. One thing we can do is to call the media on what is missing from stories that give disproportionate weight to the viewpoint of the adoption industry. But be prepared to put it in writing. In fact, one of the ways to make your point is a letter to the editor or news director. Point out, politely and succinctly, what is missing.

I have to admit that when I read a news story from Utah that referred to my ilk as “birth children” I just about choked. What is the alternative to being a birth child, a death child? But the reporter also went on to describe the limitations of a proposed confidential intermediary plan (this is the adoption industry’s proposed alternative to simply giving adult adoptees their original birth certificate upon request). She wrote that the adopted “child” had to be 35 to request his OBC under this proposal. And THAT reference, I really did object to.

Would you believe it, she did not see the humor when I wrote asking her how many 35-year-old children there were in Utah?

I’m sure that, upon reflection, she realized how inappropriate it was to refer to a 35-year-old adoptee as a child, but she did not have the grace or professional maturity to admit she erred. And I think it’s quite possible that she did not realize how condescending the reference was. However, because she relied primarily on one source (the lawmaker’s dog-and-pony show about her own bill) for her story, she came away with a skewed view of the topic and didn’t even know it. Adoptees are kept in perpetual childhood by present laws because we never reach an age that will allow us to ask and have answered certain fundamental questions about our own origins. I wonder if the editor of her newspaper referred to her as a “girl” if she would find her feathers ruffled. I bet she’d go to human resources and complain of sexual harassment.






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