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Posted by on Jan 14, 2009 in Health, Media | 2 comments

NY Post Offensive Headline about Shaking Babies (Guest Voice)

Note: This was sent to us as an email. Due to the media and other issues it raises — and its possibility for discussion in comments — we asked permission to run it as a Guest Voice post. We’re only removing phone numbers from the original, due to the controversy over some websites clogging up phone lines. Otherwise, it is run here intact.

Subject: Re: NY Post Offensive Headline about Shaking Babies

Dear Joe,

I opened up the New York Post on Friday and was shocked and appalled to see the headline “Kids Get A Fair Shake” appearing over the story on the launch of the Sarah Jane Brain Project’s National Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury Plan. Pediatric acquired brain injury (PABI) is the #1 cause of death and disability for children in the U.S. and includes all cases of Shaken Baby Syndrome. (Click here for story)

As a mother of a child who was shaken (my two-year-old son Christopher was shaken when he was seven weeks old) and as the Communications Director for the Sarah Jane Brain Project, the very idea that a newspaper editor would think it was clever to refer to the most devastating form of child abuse in such an offhand, callous way is beyond hurtful and unacceptable. There is no other way to define their actions other than it being an intentional mockery of the trauma children and their families suffer.

As a former newspaper reporter myself, I know the reporter who wrote the story was not responsible for the offensive headline. However, also as a former reporter, I know the mentality of the people who do come up with newspaper headlines – to capture the audience and sensationalize the piece in order to sell newspapers. While this is of course standard practice, it is not at all acceptable when it comes to child abuse resulting in brain injury!

I believe the New York Post should not only print an apology to Patrick Donohue, the founder of the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation, and to all parents of brain-injured children for making light of such a tragic experience, but they should also devote an entire section of their Sunday edition to the first-ever National Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury Plan. If you feel the same way, please be sure to call, email or send a letter to:

Mr. Col Allan, Editor-in-Chief
The New York Post
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036-8790
Email: [email protected]

You can also send a letter in for publication to: [email protected]

Below is the letter to the editor sent by Patrick to the New York Post. (Be sure to read it because he also speaks of our conference’s huge success!)

Thank you all for caring so much about this very important project for the future of children’s health.

All the best,

Jennipher Dickens
Communications Director
The Sarah Jane Brain Foundation
181 Broadway – Suite 300
New York, NY 10007

To the Editor:

I was horrified to see the headline that appeared over the story in Friday’s paper about the launch of the first-ever National Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury Plan (PABI Plan).

Pediatric acquired brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability for children in the U.S. and is the result of traumatic causes (like: Shaken Baby Syndrome, auto accidents, sports-related injuries and blast injuries our young veterans receive during war) and non-traumatic causes (like: brain tumors, stroke, meningitis, and pediatric AIDS).

The mission of the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation is to help the millions of children like Sarah Jane who have an acquired brain injury and the National PABI Plan is the first time a comprehensive continuum of care has been developed. This National PABI Plan was developed by over 50 of our nation’s leading pediatric brain specialists who gathered in New York City last week.

This conference was a huge success. We have addressed all the problems and gaps existing in the current healthcare and educational system when it comes to children with acquired brain injuries, including those in prevention, acute care treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration, and the legal side of issues families may face.

I am not certain what part of my three-year-old daughter being shaken when she was only 5 days old, breaking three ribs, both collarbones and causing a severe brain injury the New York Post thought was funny. Joking about children being shaken is not only demeaning to the admirable purpose of the organization but is horribly offensive to parents and others who know first-hand the disastrous and lifelong effects of shaking a baby. Printing “Kids Get A Fair Shake” showed extremely poor taste and inexcusably poor judgment. There are some things in life that you just should not refer to in jest, and child abuse is one of them – particularly when said abuse results in a permanent brain injury.

I would strongly suggest the New York Post print an apology to our organization and to all parents of brain-injured children for making light of such a tragic experience.

Furthermore, I feel additional press coverage of what we are doing to revolutionize the way brain-injured children are treated is needed. A newspaper’s purpose and responsibility is to be a portal of information to its readers and your headline was neither “energetic” nor “intelligent,” despite your self-described editorial principles.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, we will be posting the first draft of the National PABI Plan on our website ( for the world to review and discuss. There will be a section for interested parties to leave comments, so we may integrate valid suggestions or novel ideas into the National PABI Plan.

The launch of the PABI Plan signifies the beginning of a new era in medical history – one in which parents no longer must struggle through cumbersome bureaucracies and sticky red tape in order to get help for their children.

Instead, once the PABI Plan is fully implemented across the country, families of children with acquired brain injuries can rest assured their children are receiving the best possible care, are being treated fairly in medical, legal and educational settings, and the most recent research is being done to help these children better rehabilitate.

Patrick B. Donohue, Esq.
Father, Sarah Jane Donohue
Founder, The Sarah Jane Brain Foundation