No “newsline, press release or piece of note-worthy information” is good news

1

While looking for the price Disney paid for iparenting.com (never did find it), I spent a little time on the iParenting site and found myself following a link under “latest parenting news” to this article The Use of Donor Eggs for Post-40 Pregnancies. The headers above the short, unsigned text read “Preconception” (the name of one of iParenting.com‘s “channels” and below that, “iParenting Family News.”

All seems clear, this is news of interest to people trying to conceive. But who wrote this text and contributed it to the Family News feed? Doesn’t say. The text references “a California study,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Society of Reproductive Mediine(sic). Sounds informative. It also quotes an M.D. from an infertility clinic in Illinois. Fine. And then the last line of the piece helpfully gives a link (just one) to more information – the website of that same for-profit clinic.

At this point, some iParenting readers might pause to consider whether this particular item of content falls under their personal definition of news or might in fact be, say, a pseudo-scientific press release that hopes to steer readers towards a particular medical treatment at a particular facility. But are most couples trying to get pregnant thinking about the source of their information? In answer to my query to iParenting as to whether this was in fact paid-for advertorial, I got this repsonse:

“…the item in question is not an article, rather it is a newsline*, press release or piece of note-worthy information that may or may not help our readers in their pursuit of pregnancy…News is not commercial in nature, paid advertisements nor is it sponsored. It is culled from a variety of reputable sources who put their news out into the media via press release, major information dissemination announcement or by other means.”

* “newsline” is a non-word as far as I can tell; I couldn’t find any reference except as a proper noun.

Ignoring the question of whether it’s stupid not to charge money for such clearly commercial content, is this the curse of iParenting’s fabled success? When you have so many eyeballs to sell, you need all the content you can find, right? So why not mix press releases from pharmaceutical companies and for-profit infertility treatement providers in with those from the March of Dimes and the American Academy of Pediatrics? (Also random celebrity pregnancy and parenting tidbits from People – just weird) The response from iParenting subtly implies that their readers understand the difference between articles in “latest parenting news” and the bylined “articles” (the word news is notably absent from those pages). Essentially they’ve redefined the word “news” for their own purposes. How innovative.

The website of the Walt Disney Internet Group clarifies everything: “Its paramount mission is to provide a safe, secure environment for consumers to experience the Disney brand anytime and anywhere as they inform and entertain themselves, look to join communities with other Disney fans, or shop for products and services…”

There you go. Disney is not here to inform us, they just want us to experience their brand while we inform ourselves, and if we choose to be informed (or entertained) by press releases aimed at desperate couples that is our personal choice.

Universal media literacy education requirement, anyone?

Persephone

Read on to scan the full email exchange

Subject: In Response to Your Query
From: “Shel Franco”
Date: Sun, 20 Jan 2008 20:19:55 -0500

Hello!

Thanks so much for visiting the iParenting network of sites. In regards to your email, the item in question is not an article, rather it is a newsline, press release or piece of note-worthy information that may or may not help our readers in their pursuit of pregnancy. If you visit the link here http://www.iparenting.com/channels/news/… you will see that it is clearly marked “iParenting Family News.” News is not commercial in nature, paid advertisements nor is it sponsored. It is culled from a variety of reputable sources who put their news out into the media via press release, major information dissemination announcement or by other means.

We do have an archive of hundreds of articles, which are bylined and much more detailed. You can find the preconception articles here: http://www.iparenting.com/channels/categ…

Hope that helps to answer your question. Have a lovely evening, and thanks for visiting iParenting.

Best,

Shel

This message came from the iparenting.com contact form
=================================================
Name: Persephone Miel
Phone:
Subject: Question
Message: The Use of Donor Eggs for Post-40 Pregnancies

This article is not signed and it ends with a link to a commercial company, leading me to assume that it is paid advertising pretending to be journalism. Why don’t you mark it as such? And I can’t seem to find your editorial policy anywhere, is most of your content sponsored?
Persephone
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*´¨)
¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´ * Shel Franco
Editor
 iParenting.com, Disney Family Group

 www.iparenting.com

 www.iparentingmediaawards.com

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1 Comment

  1. BethK

    January 29, 2008 @ 10:30 pm

    1

    This is a great example of how media literacy isn’t a static skill set. Ever evolving strategies of obfuscation!