Journalism or Thou shalt not make use of prefabricated conclusions

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News. Magazines and journals each have their own approach or angle. There is the popular economic angle, or an angle that concentrates on society. The Sun, however, has a very interesting one, but before we delve into that, let’s tell the story of Priscilla.

Priscilla is a Nigerian woman. She was 43 and pregnant with quadruplets. She decided to go to a hospital in Chicago in the United States, as per instructions of her gynaecologist. He warned her against having quads in Nigeria. She had family in Chicago, so the choice was quickly made. However, at the airport in the US, she was send back because she could not proof that she had adequate financial means. On her way back to Nigeria, she had to transfer at Heathrow Airport in the United Kingdom. While waiting for her transfer flight, she began to have contractions. An ambulance brought her to Chelsea Hospital where she had four babies. Two of those four babies died soon after birth, and doctors had to treat the other two at the neonatal intensive care.

Depending on the market or readership, there are multiple interesting angles: “Pregnant woman send back to Nigeria due to lack of proof to pay the bills” or “woman pregnant with quadruplets loses two.” Context can also be quite nice, such as “seeking quality medical treatment outside borders” or “right to quality medical care.” You could also simply state that with all that is happening in the world today, it simply is not newsworthy.

The Sun

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The Sun choose a very surprising Angle: “£500K HEALTH TOURIST Quads mom jets in for NHS healthcare”

this title practically deserves a book. But lets start with the obvious: It is simply wrong. Priscilla did not ‘jet in’ for NHS healthcare (recently being compared to a humanitarian crisis). She jetted in for USA healthcare. Also, she is not a 500-pound health tourist, but a USA Health Tourist. Her choice of Chicago was because she had family there who could support her. All this as per advice of her Nigerian gynaecologist. Without wanting it to happen, she went into labour while on her way back to Nigeria.

The Sun doesn’t prioritise the fact that the mother lost two of her children, the terrible stress of giving birth in an unknown city, or the question what is medical tourism. No, what is important for the sun is that she has a 500’000 pound bill that she cannot pay. This huge bill now rests on the shoulders of British taxpayers. The Sun continues to contextualise the article saying ‘2,167 mums not entitled to care had babies on NHS wards in 2015/16’.The article itself mentions later that British healthcare suppliers must provide emergency medical care. So they are entitled, against the wishes of The Sun apparently.

The immorality of The Sun is shocking. Prioritising the fact that this Nigerian woman would costs the taxpayer 500’000 pounds assumes that this is not just a problem according to the Sun, but also the key problem. Something that they – I assume –would wish to see solved: Those who are not entitled to make use of the NHS, should take care for themselves. The Sun also assumes that the people reading share this immoral point of view.

predetermined conclusion

However, the moral qualms I have with this article are not the reason I brought it up. Its predetermined conclusion is the main issue. Any somewhat heavily politicized journalism opens itself to criticism, but this politicized text comes with a preassembled conclusion: Immigrants abuse British healthcare. No matter what the context might be, or the facts on the ground, or the simple question of humanity, the conclusion would stay the same.

That is not to say that there shouldn’t be room to debate the issue. Should passengers take a health insurance before flying towards a certain country? Perhaps a small fee on top of their ticket to cover such costs? Nevertheless, there are a million and one ways to open that debate in a moral and humane way that doesn’t come with foregone conclusions, and straight-out lies. What happened was that a Nigerian woman had quadruplets against her wishes in the United Kingdom. The conclusion could be about the unforeseen costs of transfer passengers needing medical care.

Perhaps we ought to send the Sun a list of how many British abuse the Belgian healthcare system. A system that is heavily subsidised by the Belgian government, and Belgian taxpayer’s money, because their own NHS doesn’t seem to quite meet first world standards. Perhaps the Nigerian woman ought to complain on how she had no choice but to give birth to children in the United Kingdom?

Anyway, to journalists: first get your facts then your conclusions and… always keep your story moral and humane, because we really do need it in these times.

Ps; I understand that analysing The Sun for good journalism is counter intuitive. Still, the most extreme examples are often pretty entertaining.

 

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