Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Ruth's Morning Edition Report

Ruth: A number of you have written in asking where I was Monday or Tuesday? One woman, Stella, a visitor, wrote in to say she was sorry if her defense of The Guardian had made me want to stop blogging. I've read a lot of angry e-mails from visitors who have said more or less "You don't know what you're talking about." But the only articles that have turned up have been the two my granddaughter Tracey and I have found, one was AP and I don't give The Guardian credit for that and the other one was written by The Guardian. If you find other articles during the first thirty days (starting May 1, 2005) please send them in.

But that's not why I haven't felt the need to post. I've just been pretty disgusted with Morning Edition for the past week and that hasn't changed this week thus far. It started with a story alleging that women's lower wages result from their not knowing how to negotiate and that's why they make less money. I really don't think most working women are in the position to negotiate their pay. Most working women go in, do an interview and are offered a set amount. There's no "Let's talk salary." These aren't salaried jobs, these are hourly wages.

So that story bothered me. Then they played bumper music and over it Gas Bag Steve felt the need to say something along the lines of "Here's Renee and she knows how to negotiate." It was just so unworthy of the show. And the new bumper music is irritating.

I hear it and I think, "Oh, they want the youth audience." But the youth audience isn't going to hear it and think, "Morning Edition is for me!" It's not appealing to them because it's not appealing to anyone. It's similar to the type of music that they use on TV shows like the CSI shows. I'm not talking about the "Who Are You?" by the Who, I'm talking about their incidental music which really just grates on your nerves.

Then this morning [Tuesday] they again go wild with the sound effects. The story is one on
footvolley in Miami. "Footvolley" is "big" in Miami apparently. You play it with your feet, volleyball but with your feet.

Listen to the start of that segment but turn the volume down. I have the radio turned to a normal volume to hear people talk. Then that segment comes on and the blaring nonsense not only woke up my grandson, thanks NPR, it scared him. He was crying for twenty minutes.

I cannot figure out what they think they're doing but they aren't serving their listeners.

Maybe they have a new person at the soundboard who wants to show off? When I finally calmed my grandson and got him back down for his nap, I called up my local NPR affiliate and complained because this is a morning show and it's NPR. There was no reason for that blasting horn at the beginning of the report. It had nothing to do with the story and added nothing but headaches.

I have no idea what they're doing lately but it isn't news.

Let's review some of the "news" topics they gave us today, I'll focus on one report in particular, but let's just review the topics that they found "newsworthy."
I told you about "footvolley."

We also were delivered the "news" on "
Researchers Tout Talk Therapy for Insomnia," "Potato Correctness: Spuds Get a Bad Name," "Study: Friendly People Live Longer," "Remembering the Night of 100 Points: 'Wilt, 1962'" (which Juan Williams "reported" on), "In Germany, Concerns over the 'King of Vegetables'" (how will the EU affect asparagus?) and there's one more but before we get to that one I would like to note "Scientists Find Bacteria that Converts Light into Energy" which isn't "breaking news" but is important enough to rank as a lighter story. It ends up being a "hard hitting" story compared to all the other lifestyle reports this morning.

I'm tired of hearing Gas Bag Steve (Gas-Kateer Steve?) make his lame jokes. If I wanted to hear nonsense chatter fill up the hours, I'd watch The Today Show. I listen to NPR to be informed and when Bob Edwards hosted Morning Edition they could focus on real news. They'd do the lighter stories but the past two weeks, lighter stories have overwhelmed the stories of real content, of real importance.

It's stopped being Morning Edition and started being no different from all those chattering TV shows where the anchors make jokes back and forth to one another. I support NPR in their current battle. But before the last two weeks, I supported Morning Edition as well.

By that I mean, during pledge week (which seems to come about once a month these days), I would call in and pledge and I would do that during Morning Edition. With watching my grandson, there's not really any opportunity to pour over the morning paper. That wasn't a problem because the big stories would be covered each morning on Morning Edition.

That's no longer the case. If things don't improve quickly, I won't be renewing my membership with NPR.

I have always valued Morning Edition. It's always been my paper backup on days when I didn't have time or when the paper arrived soggy and wet. But I really do not have the time these days to waste on something that has lost its focus on the news. I do not watch Extra or Entertainment Tonight. I do not have time to listen to similar nonsense on the radio.

Someone appears to have decided that since Steve and Renee lack gravitas, the only thing to do is devote the morning broadcast into "Isn't that cute" stories.

Some people may enjoy that but that's not why I've listened to Morning Edition day after day since its inception.

I count eighteen stories in this morning's broadcast and only ten of them strike me as real news.

When, between these stories, I hear Steve making bad jokes, or repeating his name endlessly, I'm left to wonder where the news is?

Last week he began repeating his name over loud bumper music. He had either said his name at the end of the segement before the bumper music ("This is Steve Inskeep") or as soon as it went off. Twice in a row, do we need that? I thought at the time, "Oh someone made an editing error." However, since they continue to do this, I no longer think it's an error.

Now I want to focus on one of the lifestyle stories they did this morning.

Fewer Boys Being Born in America
by Richard Knox
Morning Edition, June 21, 2005 · Fewer boys are being born in America. Scientists don't really know why is this happening, but there's no shortage of theories.

There were no shortage of theories, however, there wasn't a great deal of facts.

"Nature arranges for more boys to be born their girls." This is no longer the case, according to the report.

The number of male babies who are born in the United States has dropped over the sixty year period compared to the number of female babies. In 1942 there were 1052 boys for every 1000 girls. By 2002, there were 1048 boys for every thousand girls. It's not a lot if you're total population is a thousand but if your population is hundreds of millions then yes it does have ramifications because one-year olds eventually become five-year olds and go to kindergarten, kindergarteners go to high school participate in sports that might be different for young women and young men that go to universites and get jobs. And many of them get married if they can find suitable partners.

I felt like saying, "Thanks for explaining how the public education system works." I didn't feel like I was given any news. Possibly the news wasn't a "crisis" of male births? Possibly the news wasn't that less males were born but that more females were born? Possibly this "crisis" was actually good news in terms of the numbers of females being born?

By their own statistics, there are still 48 more boys than girls born for every thousand girls. I was bothered as well by the "and many of them get married if they can find suitable partners." Which later led to a carefully worded statement endorsing the backlash myths popularized in the late eighties about the shortage of marriable males. In 2005, I didn't realize we were still living in a world where the parings were always girl-boy. Listening, I felt as though I had time traveled back a few decades.

I have many children and many grandchildren. I never placed a higher premium on them due to gender. "There are 850,000 fewer males"as a result of the drop. 850,000. Consider our population in this country and wonder why they want to turn this figure into a crisis?

That's about 15% less. A 15% drop in marriageable males can feel like more because men are scarcer in some cities and the impact gets focused on the courtship years. Researcher Steven Orzach.
Mr. Orzach: So you know I guess the standard complaints that you hear, you know, about there being no marriable men of any quality would be magnified in a signficant way.

I "guess" the, "you know," what "you hear" is now the basis for researchers, the factual basis for researchers. Is anyone else bothered by that?

Nobody really knows what's causing the drop in baby boys. There's probably not one reason, but there's no shortage of theories. One is environmental. Some think that chemicals that disrupt hormones could be working against boys. But that's controversial. Steven Orzach is a population scientist. He says it might have something to do with single parenthood.

Orzach goes on to weigh in with the "scientific" theory (that he doesn't appear to have any facts to back up) that home environment may be at work. "Women who are living with their partners at the time of conception of the kid tend to have more males."

So maybe it's no accident that single mothers have become more common at the same time male babies got scarcer.

Won't the Bully Boy be proud? This nonsense goes on and on.

Now on something of real value, such as chemicals effecting births, there's no effort to explore that because it's "controversial." We get two sentences on chemicals (counting the "controversial" statement). But we get gas bags galore (Orzach isn't the only "expert") explaining to us their wack-job "theories" blaming unwed mothers. And it is "unwed mothers" because we go from single mothers not living with males at conception to just "single mothers."

I can't believe that this is what we've come to. On The Laura Flanders Show this weekend, a guest spoke of the growing backlash against women in this country and his concerns over that.

NPR has no concerns over that. They're happy to blame those single mothers.

In the story, they never address anything but the gender at birth. No effort is made to track the gender of fetuses that did not come to term (due to miscarriages or abortions) But this "crisis" results (is the fault of) from single mothers as the two "experts" explain.

Both men (as
Rebecca would say, isn't it always a man) are younger than I am so maybe they teach things differently than when I took biology in high school and college. But I seem to remember learning that the sex of the child wasn't determined by the mother, it was determined by the father. And one of my favorite movies, Goldie Hawn's Protocol, even uses this fact for a joke. When she's being wooed to become part of a harem, it's explained to her that none of the other wives has been able to bear a male child. Ms. Hawn gets off a funny joke about the way gender is actually determined but apparently the "experts" have never heard about X or Y chromosones. Me, I always thought a Goldie Hawn comedy was geared for the masses. Who knew I was watching brava independent film full of the arcane that only a select few could chuckle along with?

I started letting my mind wonder during the Morning Edition segment and attempt to predict where the next "hard hitting" and "fact based" report might take us? Possibly to a segment about women's wages and how it's a "crisis" for men and they could trot out "experts" who would explain to us how the public education system works and how this "crisis" was going to hurt (straight) women's chances of marrying (straight) men?

Now I'm a feminist from way back and damn proud of it. I'm what the media would label a "bra burning" feminist despite the reality that none of the women I knew burned a bra, we just didn't wear them. But that's the time frame that I am coming from. So maybe the anger and hatred towards women that the guest on The Laura Flanders Show spoke of this weekend is reaching a dangerous boil? I don't doubt him I just never thought NPR would merrily join in the backlash parade.

The segment was reported by a male with all male guests as they talked about pregnancy. I have a real problem with that. I also have a real problem with the determination that a move towards equal numbers (boys still outnumber girls) is seen as a "crisis." That in 2005, there is alarm and concern over what will happy to boy-girl pairings also bothers me since we're presumably all mature enough to know that there are other pairings.

The "report" would have worked on The 700 Club where Pat Robertson could have leaned in with that smirk he passes off as a concerned grin and stated the obvious, what the segment implies repeatedly, "Single mothers are destroying the very fabric of our society!"

I've never made it a point to donate money to The 700 Club and not simply because, as a Jew with no interest in converting or being used as a pawn in their cultural wars, they have nothing to say to me. I also have never donated to The 700 Club because I find their "facts" and "reporting" offensive. What aired on Morning Edition this morning was just as offensive as anything that could have played on The 700 Club.

I'm sure there are reasons for the changes in the boy-to-girl ratio that Morning Edition wants to label a "crisis." I'm equally sure that they do have a great deal to do with environmental factors. But that means the "controversial" chemicals that are all around us, the one theory that Morning Edition didn't want to pursue and brought on no guest to address.

Cancer and other diseases are on the rise. I live in a world with alerts that tell me whether it's safe for me to go out or not because we've trashed the ozone layer. Adults today grew up with chemicals that were later withdrawn from the market.

Could any of that have effected chromosomes? I don't see why not. One of the first things fertility doctors, one of my sons is a fertility doctor, recommend to a couple attempting to have a baby with little success is that the man stop wearing briefs and switch to boxers to allow for "breathing." If something that simple can have an effect it seems clear that the toxic waste around us could as well. Or at least that seems clear to me.

It's not clear to NPR which finds the topic so "controversial" that they can only address it in passing with two sentences (one of which dismisses it as "too controversial"). Instead they'd rather blame single mothers and bring on "experts" who will inform you, apparently "factually,"
that it has to do with the basic design and that when men are not around, due to something programmed into us, women will give birth to girls.

I don't buy that. I don't buy it for many reasons but I'll just offer you one. If this is "evolutionary" and evolution works to sustain the species, if, then wouldn't the "fact" that there weren't enough men around dictate that pregnancies would result in more male births?

NPR takes a simple discussion, X & Y chromosomes, how birth gender is determined, and muddies it up with junk "science" from men who apparently know very little about gender determination or anything else. Then someone soaks it with the hideous music they're so fond of these days, adds their (male) authorative voice to the piece and gives this backlash attack on single mothers the NPR stamp of approval.

Some people might be willing to support that with their donations; however, I'm not prepared to do so.