Friday, June 24, 2005

Ruth's Morning Edition Report

Ruth: On today's Morning Edition [Thursday] it was time to dip into the mailbag:

Letters: Scientists and Single Women, Sherpa Anatomy
Morning Edition, June 23, 2005 · Listeners find fault with a story that reported single women tend to give birth to girls, but scientists confirm the assertion. And a listener objects to the the "western approach" of a story on the musculoskeletal system of sherpas in Nepal.

This was the segment I noted and complained about here on Wednesday.

Steve: "And it's time once again for your comments. Many people listening to this program said "Wait a minute after hearing Richard Knox's report on the slowly declining birth rate for boys. Dave ____ of Newark, Ohio writes, 'I was surprised to hear your program give air to the bizarre theory that nature makes it so that single women tend to give birth to girls because boys grow larger and require more food. The whole idea," he writes, "is absurd."
Renee: Well it may sound ridiculous but scientists have established that single women are more likely to have girls. Why that's the case is something researchers speculated about in our story. And it's something we'll hear more about in a future report on NPR.

The idea that it's a decline is something NPR has pushed in their story. Hopefully a "future report on NPR" will deal with why it was seen as a decline for boys and not an increase for girls? Since they did hear from "many people listening," hopefully the "future report" will address facts and figures.

Listening to the earlier report, I had accepted as fact that single women were inclined to give birth to girls more so than boys. My son echoed Tracey, my granddaughter, in asking me what is the figure on that? That's a good question and no figure was given. We were told that there were 15% less boys when you looked at the trends (which could also be interpreted as 15% more girls) but we weren't given figures for single versus married mothers. My son wondered if the 15% more/15% less was the result only of single mothers, which he doubts, or if it is something more along the lines of 5% and 10%. If there is not a huge difference in the percentages, as he points out there may not be, then it's not statistically sound.

Before NPR does their "future report," they need to have the facts and figures ready.

Hopefully this "future report" will also take into effect chemicals and environmental toxins which were dismissed in the original report because Tracey's father tells me that there's a growing body of research regarding the impact of chemicals on fertility. There are also studies that indicate some fertility drugs may increase the likelihood that a woman will give birth to a girl.
That too needs to be addressed in the "future report."

Since Renee assures us that this has been "established by scientists," I'm sure it won't be very difficult for them to determine the percentage of women on fertility drugs that gave birth to girls versus the percentage on fertility drugs that gave birth to boys.

If you're beginning to get that this won't make for a breezy, chatty report full of "you knows" and "I guess"es and what "you hear"s but then it never should have been that in the first place.

Nor should it ever have been the "male voices of authority." We're talking about pregnancy. I'm sure if NPR had tried a little they could have rounded up some "researchers" knowledgable on this topic who were female. And if you think, as visitor T.W. does, that's "nit picking," ask yourself if you think NPR would have done a story on erectile dysfunction reported by a woman with all female "experts?" I don't suspect that they would have.

But no one apparently raised an eyebrow when the topic was pregnancy and all the speakers were male, including the reporter. Women of my generation had to battle the unquestioned male authority on every level. Not the least of which was reclaiming our bodies as our bodies. I'm not at all surprised that NPR heard from "many" because male or female, we came of age questioning the notion of male control over female bodies.

I will applaud them for the fact that in the slightly over three minutes segments, for a change, they were dealing with serious issues. People responding to stories with their views and additional information. There was none of the usual "When you used the adverb . . ."

My youngest son (only my granddaughter Tracey has given me permission to use her name) made an interesting point as well. The "crisis" nature of the piece overlooks the basic fact that a biological father's involvement need only be "a few minutes." Why is that? (Tracey said if I put this in I should call this "Granny Gets Graphic.") Because it only takes a few minutes to impregnante in most cases.

However, as my youngest son pointed out, the woman's aspect of the pregnancy takes quite a bit longer. A few minutes plus nine months if the pregnancy doesn't result in a premature birth. The point he was making is that for it to be a "crisis" from an evolutionary standpoint, there would need to be significantly fewer females than males. From that standpoint, in case anyone's missed it, you need more females than you do males. And to put it in the simplest, and nicest, terms, that's why on a farm you can have a heard of cattle with only one bull in the bunch or a coop full of chickens with only rooster in the bunch.

I think Morning Edition did a very poor job with their report. I will note, however, that the report was discussed, and refuted, repeatedly within my family. Good reporting or bad reporting, NPR still has the ability to reach the family in this age of segmented TV viewership.

I'll also note that they used the same notes today that woke and frightened my grandson earlier this week; however, this time they sounded as though they were played by a flute and not a fog horn.

I would also urge you to listen to the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show today [Thursday]:

10:00 NPR President and CEO Kevin Klose
The president and CEO of National Public Radio talks about recent controversies surrounding federal funding of public broadcasting, allegations of political bias, and what the future holds for public radio.
Kevin Klose, president and CEO of NPR

There are news stories on NPR covering the issue but if anyone other than Diane Rehm has seriously delved into the issue, I've not heard it. This is the third hour she's devoted to this topic. Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! has seriously covered this issue, including a full hour with Bill Moyers this week, however, her program does not air on my local NPR. I watch it on television. Of the programs my local NPR carries, Diane Rehm has been the one seriously addressing this issue.

When members shared their opinions on should NPR and PBS be saved or not, a number of community members voiced the opinion, and have voiced it in e-mails C.I. forwards to me (, that it was difficult to get energized about fighting for NPR and PBS when no one at either was prepared to fight. I fully understand that this is an ongoing battle and I do respect the opinions of members who want to write it off as well as the opinions of members who want to fight to save NPR and PBS.

But to those who have said they would join the fight were it not for their perception of people at NPR and PBS standing on the sidelines, I want to note once again that Diane Rehm has not been shy about this topic. She has repeatedly addressed and explored it. Bill Moyers is not currently with NPR or PBS to my knowledge and Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! is not produced by NPR or PBS so for those who are looking for someone within NPR or PBS who has been vocal on this topic, I would urge you to check out the three hours that Diane Rehm has devoted to this issue.

I share the disappointment that the people we think of when we think of NPR and PBS haven't devoted more time to this issue. There is something sad about the fact that the "people" out there, visibily fighting are Clifford the Dog and Maya & Miguel. But on NPR, Diane Rehm has more than done her part.