Waking Up Out of Context

My wife, Rose, recently appeared on a Good Morning America segment about fertility and women waiting later in life to have children. Rose is a fertility lawyer, specializing in surrogacy, sperm and egg donation, adoption and a burgeoning array of other legal intricacies involved with fertility treatments.

The producers said she was an ideal fit to respond to an article about having children later in life in The Atlantic that essentially rationalizes why it’s OK to have children later life. Another aspect of Rose’s appeal: She is 33 years old and more than eight months pregnant.

Before saying yes to the producers, we considered the implications of Rose going on national TV to serve as a counterpoint to The Atlantic article. Rose meets myriad women on a daily basis who have waited until their late 30s and 40s to have children and subsequently endure months, if not years, of unsuccessful fertility treatments. In addition to the tremendous emotional toll of such treatments, there is also a significant financial burden.

Rose felt she could provide some context to the story by encouraging women to seek advice from their doctors earlier in life before age-related infertility becomes an issue. As her doting public relations specialist/husband, a spot on GMA also seemed like a good way to drum up some awareness about her practice.

So, she agreed to participate, and a day later GMA was staging our house for the interview. The camera folks took the requisite pregnant-lady-in-nursery b-roll, and the reporter asked copious questions about Rose’s practice, scenarios she encounters and why women shouldn’t wait until later in life to think about pregnancy. All in all, Rose was satisfied with the whole experience, and we stayed home to watch the segment the next morning.

After three teasers of Rose staring goo-goo eyed at onesies, GMA finally aired the segment. They opened with an interview with The Atlantic writer discussing why the decline in fertility over the course of a woman’s 30s has been overblown.

And then came Rose’s 15 seconds of inglorious fame.

Basically, GMA identified Rose as a pregnant woman who didn’t wait until her 40s to get pregnant, and that was it. There was no mention of her law practice. No mention of her experience working with women who struggle with infertility. No mention of our own infertility scare. Instead, Rose was reduced to some random pregnant woman waiting for a baby.

It is difficult for me to opine on this subject without my protective daddy-to-be instincts kicking in. But as a former reporter and communications executive, several pieces of advice come to mind for all future GMA subjects:

  • Make sure producers fully understand how to identify you on camera;
  • Ask questions about how you will be portrayed in the context of the story;
  • If you are misrepresented or quotes are taken out of context, follow up with the reporter and producer to ensure clarification is made on-air and online;
  • Write a blog post articulating why you were misrepresented and share the post across social media channels, including the media outlet’s Twitter handle;
  • And perhaps most of all, try to ensure your PR executive husband, wife, partner or professional is not out of town (as I was) on the day of your interview!

Evan Pondel, epondel@pondel.com

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