Defend Family Planning, Again

The Sunday Star Times (see 1 Feb update at the end of this post) has a piece today on Right to Life’s attack on Family Planning’s charitable status, something I blogged about a couple of weeks ago over at The Hand Mirror in a post titled  Defend Family Planning. It’s good to see some serious reporting of the constant attacks being lobbed at organisations like Family Planning LogoFamily Planning, doctors, screening programmes, etc. etc. by Ken Orr et al., and the SST’s Marika Hill has been doing some great work on that score. Which of course means that Ken has probably already written and posted a complaint to the newspaper with a Press Council follow-up waiting in the wings. Orr is one of the most prolific letter-to-the-ed writers, OIA requesters, complaint writers in the country. Nary a news report touching on reproductive health care goes by without it sparking a bit of outrage. And some of the outbursts would be mostly entertaining, as I wrote in the “Defend FP” post were it not for the chilling effect this has on orgs like FP. Which is just what Family Planning’s Chief Executive Jackie Edmond said in that SST article:

“The biggest concern for me is it makes people nervous to address the real issues because a small number of people are very vocal,” Edmond said. “It makes government officials nervous about moving positively forward on things like abortion law reform.”


The campaign to defund Family Planning, which started here in around 2010, never really took off like its Defund Planned Parenthood counterpart in the U.S., but FP’s recent tentative  yet welcome comments about the need for abortion law reform  have renewed at least Right to Life’s enthusiasm for another go.

I doubt it will fly for lots of reasons including that FP doesn’t perform any abortions (unlike Planned Parenthood), though does act as a point of contact and referral organisation. The antis are funny about funding abortion. On one hand, they are outraged that taxpayers money is spent on abortion (here, of course, abortion is largely taxpayer funded, unlike in the U.S.) and on the other, they are horrified if the private sector gets involved, because then that’s profiting from abortion.

The charitable status attack won’t fly either because, let’s face it, FP has hardly been indulging in scads of advocacy around law reform. And no doubt for precisely the reason that it attracts this kind of spluttering from the anti-abortion people. As Red Queen pointed out, if they go after FP, we should go after all Family First, Family  Life International NZ, etc., also charities, who are campaigning like mad against actual proposed legislation (as opposed to a not actual bill to decriminalise abortion). As ALRANZ’s Morgan Healey pointed out, this just gets tiresome.

**UPDATE 1 Feb 2012. The tut-tutting and faux outrage that came piling down on SST journalist Marika Hill’s head after her story appeared begged for another wee bit of blogging, which I did over at THM under the heading “‘Truth’ In the Abortion Debate” — as in, there really isn’t much when it comes to how anti-abortionists are covered in the media, but they scream like mad if anyone, like Hill, gets close.


Forgotten, but Not Gone?

It’s nice of the BOP Times to include me in their new revamped Web site with my own little green tab (see screen shot below) under their “blogs” section even though I was let go a few weeks before Christmas so don’t write a column there anymore. The trouble is, none of the pieces next to the little green “Alison Mcculloch” tab are mine or have anything to do with me, being about 1. Half Ironman results 2. “Record road toll” (record low toll, as it turns out) 2. This being the 2nd best place in the world to get a tattoo, and 4. Exercising.

It’s also somewhat interesting that what are in some cases columns are now labeled “blogs”. I’m wondering if paid (contract, freelance or staff) columnists are being phased out in favour of community contributed (i.e. free) blog posts?

There are some interesting discussions to be had about working for free. I do it lots for causes I believe in, including some alternative journalism work, but they’re non-profits and/or non-corporates. You could argue this still undermines pay and conditions in the industry, and I can see that. But I’m pretty disillusioned about “the industry” and think alternatives are badly needed. So…I’ll keep doing whatever I can to support (some of) them., “The industry” is in the middle of a revolution right now, anyhoo, so no one really knows what’s going on or how things will turn out.

There was some talk not long ago on one of the journalism pages on Facebook about a contributor to one of the two big chains (those being APN, which owns the BOP Times, and Fairfax) who instead of being paid for an article of hers they published was told that getting a clip for her CV was payment enough. Everyone who chimed in seemed to agree that this was unacceptable and that freelancers needed to arrange payment up front. (As well as lamenting how pitiful NZ freelance rates are. True!) That’s a separate issue from the big chains making use of “the community” for free content, but nevertheless related I think. The newspapers say community content is about involving the readership and that’s valid to a point. (Funny how before the Internet and the decline of the industry, they didn’t seem quite as enthusiastic about this? Or am I misremembering?)  Beyond some as-yet unknown point, though, community involvement (aka community provided free content) is just community exploitation.

Nex question: If this is a trend, will it work? Will readers want stuff from their local newspaper they might just as well get from standing too long in a checkout line and listening to the rant du jour? We’ll see. If the papers do a good job of gatekeeping, they’ll likely get some good stuff in amongst the not-so-fine. But good gatekeeping (i.e. editing) also costs money, so you’re almost back where you started. Hmmm.

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Delusions of Grandeur

I started writing something about gun violence in the U.S. back in July, just after Aurora. It was going to be a BOP Times column...and I kept working on the piece over the months, then Sandy Hook happened. And I got let go from the paper. But still, I was fiddling around with the piece. I thought about making it my first post as a regular contributor at the feminist blog The Hand Mirror but somehow it didn’t seem to fit — and I have some other stuff in the hopper. So … it’s here, just because:

Delusions of Grandeur

The Sandy Hook shooting in the U.S. last month brought Columbine back to me. The “Batman” massacre in Aurora, Colorado, did too. I was a staff editor at The Denver Post when Colorado came under fire from its own residents. Actually, I was sitting in a philosophy class (studying by day, working by night) when the buzz started. “Something’s going on.” Sounds of people running along corridors. Loud talking. “What’s happened?” As always, nothing was clear at first, but I raced into work and, didn’t leave for days – OK that’s not literally true, it just felt that way.  That was the 20th of April, 1999, when teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 fellow students and a teacher at Columbine High School. Then themselves.

Photo by Taber Andrew Bain. Creative Commons licensed.

Photo by Taber Andrew Bain. Creative Commons licensed.

The Denver Post keeps a special archive of its Columbine coverage on the Internet, and, after the Aurora shooting, I found myself looking back through those pages. Change just a few of the key details, and most of the headlines written back then could also have been written on 20 July 2012 or 14 December: “Bloodbath leaves 15 dead, 28 hurt” (the correct toll came a few days later), “Colorado, world mourn deaths at Columbine High”,  “A diary of devastation”, “Survivors and families likely to feel both euphoria and guilt”. And so it goes on…and on…and on.

And then this one: “Gun control battle looms”. There was a lot of excited talk after Columbine and after Sandy Hook that something would be done, this time was different, this time the nation was shocked enough. (Not so much after Aurora. The U.S. was in election mode, and neither of the candidates wanted to go near gun control.)

At the same time, and perhaps perversely to some of us, the Batman shootings and Sandy Hook prompted a rise in gun buying. The inside of U.S. movie theatres and primary schools, it seems, are now places where you need to be armed. Would you like some ammo with that popcorn? Sally, don’t forget your Kevlar backpack.

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