Once I pitched a newsletter idea for a sanitation company in a town called White. My original thought was to name it “White Trash.”
Okay, okay, confession: that story and pun was made up.
But even though a pun may fit and might sometimes even seem too good to pass up, it doesn’t make it right.
Consider the New York Times and its Motherlode site. Its goal is “to cover the ways our families affect us, and the ways the news affects our families.”
We love the play on words if it were a moms-only site, and bear with us – we’re not comparing a term like white trash to Motherlode – we’re only using an analogy to make a point. Even its url is listed in web language as http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/.
Note the first word used is parenting, as in moms and dads.
Obviously, families include dads, and with a title like Motherlode, how can it possibly make dads feel welcome, or even make them want to check out the site?
Not surprisingly, the writing you’ll find there is fantastic – very fit to print.
After all, this is the New York Times, otherwise known as media royalty. Everyone in the newspaper world wants to be like the New York Times, winners of a record 114 Pulitzer Prizes. It has been the standard in journalism for 163 years, and of course, it is a wonderful act to follow.
Hardly anyone should ever question what they do because they’re as good as it gets, right?
In that vein, does it not seem like everyone’s giving the Motherlode name – surely a discriminatory one – a free pass, just because it’s the New York Times? As readers, do we even recognize its name’s chauvinistic tone, or have we become immune to the exclusion of dad in its title?
In the last 30 days, I counted just one Motherlode news story directed explicitly at dads and fatherly issues (while the “Deployment Diary” is excellent and referred to dad a lot, it’s not a dad-specific issue). And I only noticed three male writers. So, if “families” is its goal, it’s missing the mark in more ways than title alone.
NBC News, another highly reputable media source, became all the wiser when it suddenly renamed its TODAY Moms to TODAY Parents in June, a far more inclusionary and correct name for the news affecting, well, parents.
As it stands now, the New York Times would rather use the word mother as a generic term for parent, like Kleenex is for facial tissue.
Do you ever ask someone, can you please hand me a Puffs?
In the same way, let’s not let this attitude lead to a society where office forms simply state “mother,” but we have to assume the office wants us to list both the mom’s and dad’s name.
Dads know this oft-forgotten tale all too often.
After all, it was only two generations or so ago that dads were not even allowed in the delivery room. While that practice has changed for the better, let’s be honest, doctors still mostly speak only to moms at child well checks as if they’re the lead parent, making dad to feel like an assistant at best, nonexistent at worst.
Being one of the leaders in journalism means setting an example and acting like it, from top to bottom, side to side, and tiny little bit to Motherlode.