I’ve heard a lot of complaints about NPR, but never that it exacerbated hearing problems. Now we can add that to the list. NPR’s ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos notes that a story on tinnitus (ringing in your ears) which included sounds associated with the malady got a lot of unhappy comments:
“I have tinnitus and I really wanted to hear this story, but you played a horrible tinnitus tone twice during the story while people where talking,” wrote Sue Held from Boulder, Colorado. “This type of tone can temporarily worsen tinnitus, or even be painful.”
James Sytsma from Newport Beach, California, wrote, “Since listening to the broadcast more than half an hour ago, I have had a splitting headache and loud ringing in my ears.”
I don’t have tinnitus, but I also found the high pitched actuality floating through the story unnerving. The American Tinnitus Association says endurers of the problem should avoid high volume tones. ATA advisory number 12 says: “PROTECT YOURSELF from further auditory damage by avoiding loud places and by using earplugs when you can’t avoid loud noise.”
An NPR editor is quoted in the post as acknowledging that the radio audience should have been forewarned in advance. “As I suffer from tinnitus . . . I couldn’t agree more,” Schumacher-Matos writes. “We should have warned the audience. But I have to admit I wouldn’t have thought to do so either.”
Now the story comes with an advisory above the podcast button: “*Caution: This story contains a high-pitched sound that simulates what tinnitus sufferers hear.”
Looks like NPR is on the way to telling its reporters to avoid calling the children of unmarried parents “illegitimate.” As we noted last week, there was some turbulence over the use of that word to describe Prince Albert of Monaco’s two kids.
“I am leaning towards recommending to NPR an explicit policy like the [New York] Times and the [Washington] Post,” Schumacher-Matos now says. “What do you think?”
I think what the New York Times guideline thinks:
illegitimate. Do not refer to a child of unmarried parents as illegitimate, and avoid the stodgy born out of wedlock. If the parents’ marital status is pertinent and the pertinence is clear to the reader, simply report that the parents are not married or that the child is the son or daughter of a single mother or father.
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