Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Journalism: you're doing it wrong.

I have a different question than timprov does about this Star-Tribune article in which teenagers are claimed to be inserting vodka-soaked tampons rectally in order to get drunk. The key line for me is, "Although no students have been caught in Minnesota as yet, no one doubts that kids are soaking Gummi bears with booze or finding other creative ways to get drunk."

We have no actual examples. But no one doubts that it's happening anyway.

Why not?

No one doubted that "teenagers these days" were having "rainbow parties" a few years back, either, and yet no one could find anyone who was doing it or even could make it work logistically.

We do not live in the Dubious Hills, people. Doubt is not a cuss word. Doubt is healthy. Doubt is, in fact, A JOURNALIST'S JOB AUUUUUUGH.

Okay. Okay, I'm okay. Really. Vodka-soaked gummi bears, whatever, this is not that different from Jell-o shots. So y'know. I hope the kids don't damage themselves too much with them. But seriously, gummi bears--how many of those would you have to eat to get drunk? Even if they're soaked in Everclear? That's kind of looking like a lot of gummi bears to me, and I have a really low tolerance for alcohol. But that seems reasonable as a thing people who are much more committed to alcohol than I am would do. So maybe the rest of the article is fine also!

Okay, maybe not. So here is their source for the vodka-soaked tampon thing: an emergency-room doctor in Phoenix has a nurse who has a daughter who has a friend who totally did that once and totally like passed out.


This is journalism? Seriously? They describe this ER doc as familiar with this behavior. But he doesn't claim to have seen even one case. Ever. He worries about vaginal walls (so apparently it's only boys who are inserting them anally), and about if the people doing this do pass out. But he cannot point to a single one. And honestly? I know teenage boys are more comfortable with tampons than they once were. They already were when I was a teenager more than my parents' generation had been at that age. But seriously, unless you can point at even one actual teenage boy who is willing to shove a tampon up his ass under any circumstances, I think that this is what we in realityland call not a big problem.

Also also also--and this is probably too graphic for some of you--but I am willing to admit it: I have in my life used a tampon. And I have flung it in the toilet after. And what happens to tampons when they get thoroughly, thoroughly soaked, such as being immersed in a fairly thin liquid rather than doused with a more viscous one? They expand. They do not magically stay the same pre-insertion shape when they are sopping wet. This is physics, people! This is, in fact, how tampons work at all! It's like people are faced with an object for dealing with menstrual blood, and they lose all sense of practicality relating to the thing.

It frustrates me because it's emblematic of journalism not doing its job. (I would love to say "any more," but we can all point at examples of various scares perpetrated by the press over the last hundred years.) But it also frustrates me because the attitude is that teens are dangerous and horrible in completely foreign and unfamiliar ways.

I'm having my favorite 17-year-old over for dinner tonight. Is she an angel, pure as the driven snow, with never an unkind or unpleasant thought in her head, much less deed in her life? Of course not. (Seriously, I already said I liked her.) But what she is? Is a good kid. And her friends--some of them are really together, and some of them have no idea where they're going and what they're doing, and you know what? That's okay. They're teenagers. They will screw up in utterly predictable ways, and they will come up with new ways to screw up, and both of those are part of life. But what they don't need is to have wacky teenage rumors supported by adults going, "Oh yeah, that's totally true, I absolutely believe what Britney's friend Aidan told her Josh's girlfriend's cousin did. I mean, Josh's girlfriend's cousin! That's reporting gold! Put that in the newspaper!" We need to teach them better standards of skepticism than that. They will have natural doubts. Sometimes it's our job to reinforce them.
Tags: kids these days, social fail, what five
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