ABC Spanks Spanking

Is spanking “old fashioned?” 

That appears to be ABC's position, and what they want their audience to think as well.  In a Nov. 28 piece on a bill that would ban spanking in Massachusetts, ABC's World News with Charles Gibson provided expert critics of spanking, but no expert supporters.

ABC reporter David Wright began the segment by opining:  “As a means of correcting your child, spanking does seem a bit old fashioned.”   Journalism 101 explains the difference between commentary and news.  Did Wright miss class that day?

Gibson reported that “supporters admit it doesn't have much chance of passing but they want to start a discussion.”  ABC facilitated this discussion with a one-sided piece that was less news than propaganda.

Wright interviewed child psychologist Theresa Whitehurst, who compared spanking a child to wife beating.  He also interviewed the author of the bill, nurse Kathleen Wolf, who played on heartstrings by saying “I can still remember being 10 years old and thinking, what is going on, what is wrong with the people around me.  Why is this happening?” 

ABC played footage of Massachusetts state representative Jay Kaufman, a sponsor of the bill, saying “If today's hearing prevents one injury to a child, this attention will have been well-placed.”

In contrast, ABC presented not a single credentialed person who views spanking as a useful disciplinary tool for parents.  ABC's “balance” included a clip from a radio talk show, a line from the show's host and an interview with an unidentified woman. 

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: You don't have to know what the bill is about to know this woman is a moon bat.

DAVID WRIGHT, ABC REPORTER: Today, Boston talk radio took that idea to the woodshed.

HOWIE CARR, WRKO RADIO HOST: What are they going to do?  Have cameras in the houses?  Are they going to have 5-year-old kids testifying against their parents?   

At the very end of the segment, Wright spoke to an unidentified woman, presumably a mother:

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: At some point in his life, if he's really really naughty, yeah, I might spank him.

            WRIGHT: And do you feel that should be your choice, as a mother?

WOMAN: Definitely there's a big difference between spanking and child abuse.   

WRIGHT: But sometimes, for parents and their kids, it can be hard to tell the difference.

Wright briefly acknowledged the conflict between parental rights and government control, saying “It's one thing for a parent to decide not to spank their children, plenty of parents have.  Quite another for the government to outright ban the practice.”  He went on to highlight countries across the world that have banned spanking.   

Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center