Monday, January 12, 2009

Media Idiocy of the Week Part 2 [Serge]

This comes from the Columbia Journalism Review, which critiques other media outlets. Author Katia Bachko critiques a piece in the Wall Street Journal which discusses this article. On a side note, I've already commented on this article in a recent new project (more about that later). Here is what Bachko has to say (emphasis mine):

The takeaway for parents, Healy says, is to pursue a holistic approach, not a one-time shot deal: “The focus should be on cultivating the teenager’s ongoing home and social environment, rather than on eliciting a one-time, easily forgotten promise.”

The Wall Street Journal is right to call foul on the press for oversimplifying the story and playing down the substantial differences between the religious teens in the study and the rest. But McGurn fails to mention one of the study’s key conclusions: that teenagers from conservatively religious backgrounds tend to forego birth control when they do have sex, leading to greater incidence of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
The study does no such thing. In fact, the two groups studied were chosen specifically to match in their religious characteristics - so it would be impossible to show that teens from religiously conservative backgrounds lead to greater teen pregnancy and STDs (which also goes against all other research in this area.)

Even worse, the Pediatric study did compare the two groups in regards to their STD status, and I quote from the abstract:

Pledgers and matched nonpledgers did not differ in premarital sex, sexually transmitted diseases,
Now maybe expecting a journalist to read all twelve pages of the study, which is available for free online, might be asking too much, but she should at least of read the abstract. Clearly she did not. However, this does not stop her from making this far-reaching conclusion:

In the precede to the study, the researchers note that “the US government spends more than $200 million annually on abstinence-promotion programs, including virginity pledges.” The goal of these programs matches that of comprehensive sex ed approaches: to reduce teen pregnancy and the spread of STDs. The problem is, as the study’s findings strongly suggest, only one method works. It’s too bad that the WSJ chose to side with a moralistic, ineffective approach, instead of a science-supported, value-neutral one. Teens may be teens, but journalists should know better
And journalistic critics? The author has no idea what this article even tries to prove, let alone if her conclusion is supported by the evidence.

Journalists will be journalists, and it is very sad that they seem more clueless than the average teen. Actually, I'm sorry about that last sentence - it was unfair. I owe an apology to teens everywhere.


  1. Hello Serge,

    I'm sorry for posting here, I realize this may not be the best place for it, but I needed to get your attention on one of your previous posts entitled "New Information on the Effect of OCs on Endometrial Thickness". Is there any final verdict/new information on wheather or not OCs prevent implantation?
    As I said before, I am very interested in this topic. You can email me at


  2. No problem Mike.

    I have seen no new information on this topic since that post. I may try to do another quick lit search today - but I have been at least scanning most of the ob-gyn publications for the last few months.


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