News Media
Oops! The media did it again
By Walter Brasch
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Dec 21, 2007, 00:10

Ever vigilant, the mass media dug into a critical social issue and rooted out the information in their never-ending quest to guarantee the people�s right to know.

The people�s right to know, they decided, was that 16-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears, star of Nickelodeon�s �Zoey 101,� is pregnant. Jamie Lynn is the younger sister of Britney Spears, the former Mouseketeer who has combined a chart-topping career as a singer/dancer with being America�s Celebrity Super-Skank.

The National Enquirer first broke the story about Jamie Lynn in its July 28 issue. Unfortunately, Jamie Lynn wasn�t pregnant at the time. This prompted her horde of lawyers to notify the nation�s largest newspaper that their client is �a devout Christian with a spotless reputation, who lives in accordance with the highest moral and ethical standards in accordance with her faith.� They demanded a retraction, pending an all-out legal assault to defend Jamie Lynn�s good name.

Shortly after the Enquirer�s story appeared, and thousands of bloggers became sexually active, Jamie Lynn�s �good name� became semen-stained when she became pregnant, probably in September. The father is 19-year-old Casey Aldridge, who lived with Jamie Lynn and her mother in an L.A. condo, and followed the teen mini-star to the �Zoey 101� set almost every day. So far, no one is filing any statutory rape charges.

True to the ethics and business practices of tween celebs, Jamie Lynn hid the news until she could find a price high enough. High enough to run the story was OK! magazine, which put Jamie Lynn and a mega-hype teaser on its cover, and trumpeted the six-page in-depth investigation as a �world exclusive.� The magazine�s hyperventilating publicist told the media and the public if they wanted to get all the details of this breaking news interview with Jamie Lynn and her mother, they needed to �pick up the new issue of OK! -- on newsstands everywhere.� In true media tradition, the �news� was released a day before the magazine appeared on the shelves, Dec. 19, two weeks before its cover date. Circulation was expected to rise faster than a pubescent boy�s hormones.

Naturally, the rest of the messed-up mainstream and alternative media also had to jump onto the story. OK!�s not-so-hard news interview led off the news segments of the network morning shows, was discussed thoroughly by the mid-morning and afternoon talk shows, and was featured by CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News -- which paused just long enough to report about a fire in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House, a chemical plant explosion in Jacksonville, Fla., that killed four and injured 14, and the president signing an energy bill. Radio, the Blogosphere, and the Internet-based newspapers wasted no time polluting the airwaves and the world�s bandwidths; print newspapers were caught in the wrong news cycle and had to publish �day after� not-so-investigative stories. Underreported, or not reported at all by most of the media, was that in four separate instances in Iraq, seven civilians were killed and 27 wounded. Nevertheless, enquiring American minds wanted to know all there was about Jamie Lynn; within a day, Google recorded more than 150,000 separate stories and blogger comments.

Jamie Lynn says she will raise her child in Louisiana, �so it can have a normal family life.� What she really meant was that those danged Hollywood people, infused by pregnancy-causing smog and ocean air, was what led to her pregnancy. If she stayed in Southern California, she feared she could again become impregnated before she graduated from Home-School High School.

Since the Spears family are devout Christians, they believe in abstinence-only sex education; older sister Britney even rode the reputation as a chaste and oh-so-moral virgin, saving her hymen until marriage -- until she was so overwhelmed by California air and pop singer Justin Timberlake, as well as several others, before her two-year marriage to model/rapper Kevin Federline.

Abstinence-only education originated during the Clinton administration, but was pushed to its climax as the foundation of a domestic policy program by the Bush�Cheney administration. On the day that Jamie Lynn�s obstetric condition was spread out for all America, the House passed a $556 billion pork-laden appropriations bill that included $109 million for abstinence-only education for the first six months of the fiscal year. Bush himself had wanted a $204 million appropriation for the entire year, thus placating a base of Catholics, fundamental Protestants, and world-is-flat philosophers. States that teach abstinence-only sex education in their schools can apply for Health and Human Service funds to supplement millions they already spend; teaching that life gives people many choices doesn�t yield any funds. Not getting any funds are 14 states that believe students should be told not only about the problems of unwed teen pregnancies but also that there are many ways to prevent pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases should the teen be overcome by hormonal rage.

A congressional study in April revealed there was no correlation between abstinence-only education and sexual activity. Such education programs do nothing, the study concluded, to keep teens from having sexual relations. A later study by the nonpartisan National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancyconcluded, �[T]here does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence or reduces the number of sexual partners� among teenagers. That same independent study also debunked the myth that comprehensive sex education classes lead to an increase in sexual activity and teen pregnancy.

Devout and once-abstinent Jamie Lynn�s condition, combined with whatever condition sister Britney is in, has also led to collateral damage. Mother Lynn Spears is the author of a book about parenting, scheduled for publication during the Spring 2008 season. Thomas Nelson, America�s sixth largest trade publisher and the top publisher of Bibles, and Christian and inspirational books, has delayed but didn�t cancel the how-to/memoir indefinitely. That �exclusive� information was revealed by journalistically-challenged People magazine, which undoubtedly believes it, not OK!, should have gotten the Jamie Lynn world exclusive.

Dr. Walter Brasch is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University, a former newspaper reporter and editor, and author of 17 books. His latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush. You may contact Brasch at or through

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