Promoting Insight Instead of Contempt on Obesity

Cup, Glass, and NewspaperClicks rule the internet and much of social media, so rudeness is rather easy to find, but hard to take. Reporting that brings insight and understanding is more rare and more rewarding. On obesity yesterday, we found a sharp contrast between promoting insight and promoting contempt.

From the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, the Journalist’s Resource published six tips for responsible discourse about obesity.

In the Telegraph, Assistant Editor Michael Deacon wrote a screed of contempt for people with obesity.

We prefer to focus on the more constructive side of this equation, so let’s start with the six tips from the Journalist’s Resource.

1. Start with Facts & Research

Familiarize yourself with recent research on what causes obesity and how obesity can affect a person’s health. Many long-held beliefs about the disease are wrong.

2. Use Person-First Language

Obesity researchers and health professionals encourage journalists to drop the use of “obese” and “overweight” as adjectives because it is dehumanizing.

3. Be Careful with Images

Images are powerful. All too often, the images that accompany stories about obesity convey stereotypes or dehumanize the people affected.

4. Avoid Simplistic Narratives and Stereotypes

This is a complex condition that involves far more than food and physical activity choices. Overcoming it is not a simple matter of eat less and move more.

5. Environment Matters

Preventing and reducing obesity will require more than just offering treatment to the people who live with it. Environmental factors that promote it need attention.

6. Connect with Experts and Advocates

Both professional and patient advocates can help with grounding reports in science and the life experiences of people coping with obesity.

Anything for Attention

Too often, celebrities and politicians use rudeness to gain attention. Deacon appears to crave attention, so his offer of contempt rather than insight about obesity is unsurprising. But it is impressive that, in one short column, he violates every piece of the advice above. He takes it further, ranting about “drunks,” “vegan fanatics,” and “the obese” all in the confines of his column.

Are we outraged? Not really. This is a rude act designed to draw outrage and thus attention for a writer who has little of value to offer.

Our attention goes to folks who can enrich our lives with insight and understanding.

Click here for insight from the Journalist’s Resource.

Cup, Glass, and Newspaper; painting by Juan Gris/ WikiArt

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January 11, 2024

One Response to “Promoting Insight Instead of Contempt on Obesity”

  1. January 11, 2024 at 12:45 pm, Allen Browne said:

    Interesting and useful.