Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

“Deadbeat Dads”

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on January 27, 2009

It was an innocent enough piece of copy from our news provider in London:

“A new crackdown on parents who refuse to pay child support goes before Parliament later.

“So-called ‘Deadbeat Dads’ could be stripped of their driving licences and passports without the courts being involved.”

Well, use of the word ‘crackdown’ aside, it sparked a big reaction from our listeners. Why? Because of the phrase “deadbeat dads”.

The script itself even says “so-called deadbeat dads” but that didn’t stop several people calling into complain.

But everyone was using it. I heard BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat use it, without the “so-called”; it also appeared in several newspapers.

And you can see why it’s used – it’s a catchy phrase which makes a bit of a woolly legal story more interesting.

Our callers  – single dads, mostly – felt singled out as the responsible party. Mums, they said, also skimped on child support. Why should they get a hard time in the press? And they’re right.

So what’s the answer? Should journalists avoid pithy catchphrases all together? Or do they make the story more interesting and relatable?

A good bit of advice for other journalists: the complaints weren’t bad news for us. We listened to their concerns, explained how the word made it on radio…and then convinced them to speak on air, giving us the best local audio on this story.

Have a listen

2 Responses

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  1. Amanda said, on October 9, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    I am a mother of 4 children…whom all ahve deaqd beat fathers, because the courts and welfare system PROTECT these dead beat fathers. Court dose not take there rights from them when they refuse to get jobs, I could see giving these fathers 6 months to get on the feet but no more then that and the should not be alowed to see there children..And then the Welfare allow these men to stay on welfare providing they LOOK for work but any idoit can say they have looked and Welfare belives it I think really the courts and Welfare should come together and put an end to it all …I bet there would be alot less young mothers on Welfare and alot more men being carefull in the sex field in general !!! STICK THERE RIGHTS TO THESE DEAD BEAT LOW LIFES>>>SO CALLED MEN

  2. Anita Bracken said, on December 7, 2011 at 7:30 am

    holy cow there is more than one of these guys out there my brother quit his job lied so that he qualified for welfare to teach those effing bees raising his kids emotionally and physically alone; a lesson, he said. They will never get one red sent from me and welfare protects me from going to jail….. He was right. Now that he has no obligation to pay he cut off all visitation as well…


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