Abstinence, Sex-ed and Balanced Journalism

Sometimes it’s easy to misunderstand, to jump to the wrong conclusions. That’s what I told myself when the local daily newspaper ignored important developments last fall in an abstinence-based program at Milwaukee’s Rosalie Manor Community & Family Services, which has been combatting teen pregnancy, child abuse, and child neglect for nearly a century. But then, when the local United Way started a so-called “comprehensive” sex-ed program featuring a misleading, even tricky come-on (“For a Good Time, Call”), the newspaper couldn’t praise it enough.

That was followed by the report of one study that critized abstinence only programs, and the newspaper covered it thoroughly and even ran a “personal” editorial from one of its staff writers blasting abstinence programs. And now another sex-ed program with ties both to the United Way AND the newspaper is being heralded as one of the most important things to happen in Milwaukee in a long time. An editorial was even run that began the process of implanting United Way’s fall 2007 campaign in readers’ minds.

Let me be clear about something here. I, personally, don’t take a position in the debate over abstinence vs. comprehensive sex-ed programs. I believe there is both room and a distinct need for each, especially in Milwaukee, which consistently leads the nation in births to teenage mothers and has an increasing rate of sexually transmitted diseases among teens. I have strongly supported United Way over the years. My point here is that journalism depends on balanced reporting (or so I learned when earning my own degree in journalism), and there has been nothing balanced about the local newspaper’s approach.

Am I jumping to the wrong conclusion, or is it that the newspaper’s strong ties through its company leadership to the United Way results in having little interest in covering positive news that is generated by a so-called “competing” program? For a look at what The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has failed to cover, please see www.acryingshame.info. Maybe the real shame is that The Journal Sentinel is the only game in town, and once it takes a side, the game is over.


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The comments expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinions of Johnson Direct, LLC.

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