Last week, a sad news story out of Pennsylvania made the rounds. Originally, it had a bad headline and lede:
Fetus found in high school bathroom; Lancaster County student jailed on $1M bail
A 19-year-old McCaskey East High School student was charged with concealing the death of a child after she reportedly gave birth to a fetus that was found dead in a school bathroom Tuesday night.
Cherlie LaFleur, of the 300 block of North Marshall Street, was identified by police and school resource Officer David Shell after they reviewed school surveillance footage and conducted extensive interviews at the school where the male infant was apparently born prematurely Tuesday night, according to a Lancaster city police press release.
After giving birth in the bathroom, LaFleur allegedly tried to flush the infant down a toilet and, when that failed, she put it in a trash can, police said.
Such sad news about newborns these days. You’re all wise readers so you immediately see the problem. You don’t give birth to a fetus. “Fetus” is the euphemism we use for unborn children. By definition, that’s the wrong euphemism once the baby is born. I was one of the folks on social media decrying this incorrect use of the word. For example:
@mzhemingway: No one gives birth to a fetus. It’s an ontological impossibility. By definition, euphemism only applies pre-birth!
Before we look at how the PennLive.com reporter handled the negative reaction to his mistake, let’s revisit how a more august paper handled it’s egregious errors on this point. You can read tmatt’s post “Journalism and the first few minutes after childbirth.” And if you look at the two articles he singled out for their factual error, neither USA Today nor the New York Times has gotten around to correcting their erroneous stories.
Compare that embarrassing response with how the PennLive.com reporter responded to being called out:
Good afternoon everyone,