Tuesday, April 13, 2004

When Do Reporters Do More Harm Than Good?

I stumbled upon this article from 3/14/02, published in the Boston Globe. I try to read everything I can about Father's Rights, regardless of the print date.

First, I want to say that any reporter who writes a story about the plight fathers face in family courts should be duly commended. This is not a particularly popular topic for several reasons - I don't believe men truly realize how bad it can be until they find themselves immersed and completely unprepared - While women may have an inkling as to how the system will work, more often than not it works in their favor so if it isn't broken... Besides, more often, it now seems that instead of mothers realizing the system is biased in their favor, mothers feel as though they are entitled to the children, the home, the checks... - And unfortunately, it seems as though there is so much other stuff going on in the country, the population at large either chooses not to or cannot devote much attention to this issue.

So for this topic, any reporter who treats the issues "somewhat" fairly is okay by me. The more coverage this issue gets, the more pressure will be felt by the judicial and legislative branches of government.

However, the treatment of men in this article is problematic for me. The "example" man at the beginning of the article is painted as a victim of his wife and the system. While more often than not men find themselves victimized by both, the depiction of a man living in a marriage in which his wife has divorce papers on hand in the event her wishes are not met, does not portray the type of father that I feel the public should have in mind when considering this issue. The article does well enough to portray his wife as a "hateful tyrant" over her marriage, husband and children - but effectively then the husband becomes a spineless observer of his own family.

The "example" father at the end of the article is also problematic. While I am thrilled that this extremely young father has found parental responsibility and is taking fathering classes, his case should not be presented as the norm. Teenage fathers need extensive support and should be applauded when they act mature beyond their years in regard to children.

However, the average divorced is neither of these two cases. Most fathers will not be forced to endure a loveless, hateful marriage simply because their wife throws around divorce papers. A mother who will act as such should likely have more limited contact with their child as they obviously are unable to consider the child's welfare. A man who walked out on this type of marriage should not be considered ambivalent to his child's needs, likely he may be the only parent considering those needs. (Not to mention, that as we have discussed previously, women initiate somewhere around 65% of divorces). Further, the majority of fathers who take issue with the legal system are not teenage parents. They are men from "traditional" marriages that find out during divorce proceedings that the family court considers them secondary citizens in regard to the care of their children, through financial contributions will not only be accepted, they will be expected.

In my opinion, this author could have done much better by the countless non-custodial or divorcing fathers around the country. If he had accurately portrayed the plight of the majority of these fathers instead of trying to illicit sympathy by providing the most extreme examples, people nationwide would have a much better idea of what happens to children when their parents divorce.

Read the article here: Boston.com

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