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Updates on pregnant smoker worried about "jackhammer noise" 
14th-Oct-2004 10:47 pm
bam!
The story made it to Snopes when too many people simply found it too incredulous to take seriously.. or perhaps desperately hoped it was some kind of mocked-up hoax. Alas, no.

The newspaper in which the story and photo originally ran, the Roanoke Times, followed up with a piece by columnist Joe Kennedy interviewing the woman in question, entitled "Criticism doesn't bother smoker". Wherein we are treated to the following tidbit:

"Williamson is a small woman with long brown hair. She didn't finish high school. She hasn't seen her father since she was 13. She has worked in fast food, but doesn't have a job.
"I've heard of the Internet," she said, "but I've never used it. I have no knowledge of computers whatsoever."
She didn't learn about her widespread critics until a few days after the photo appeared. Her ex-husband said his co-workers had talked about it.
"It didn't bother me," she said. "It went in one ear and out the other. I've heard this all my life."




By Joe Kennedy, The Roanoke Times

Mellissa Williamson came to her door smoking a cigarette Thursday morning. It was a sign that the Southeast Roanoke woman didn't know or didn't care about the furor her photograph had ignited since it appeared in The Roanoke Times on Sept. 20.

The photo showed her seven months pregnant and smoking a cigarette. It accompanied a story about unpopular "traffic-calming" measures under way on Bullitt Avenue, where she lives. The caption said she worries about the effect of jackhammer noise on her unborn child. She couldn't have touched off a controversy more quickly if she'd called President Bush an Islamic extremist.

Dozens of calls and e-mails came to The Roanoke Times impugning her reputation and criticizing the paper for printing the photo. It glamorized or promoted smoking while pregnant, some people said. At least one syndicated talk radio host mentioned it, and the picture proliferated on Web sites, with the caption and some wise remark like, "Yeah, the noise is what the baby needs to fear."

That's life

We'll deal with these issues one at a time.

First, the furor: Yes, Mellissa Williamson, 35, violates sound medical behavior every time she takes a puff. Yes, she deserves censure.

Second, the weighing in of egomaniacal talk-radio hosts: Yes, they're correct in saying Williamson's unborn child - a boy named Emmitt, after her "old man," who also smokes - can be damaged by her smoking.

But egomaniacal talk-radio hosts should be viewed with antipathy because they troll for people to demean. "Mercy" is not in their vocabularies. Their favorite word begins and ends with "I."

Third, the newspaper's decision to publish the picture: My view? That's journalism.

My bosses' view? The same.

"A good newspaper depicts reality, for good or ill," Times Editor Mike Riley said, "and sometimes people don't like what they see on our pages. ... We're not promoting smoking or pregnancy; we're simply documenting one person's viewpoint on an issue."

Managing Editor Rich Martin concurred: "Our photographers are out there to show what's really going on - not to stage or edit a scene just so we can photograph someone in a more favorable light."

Staging and editing scenes constitute filmmaking, advertising or propaganda, but not journalism.

When you write in your journal, do you present the truth as you lived it or a purified account that makes you look good?

Never mind.

A target market

Thursday morning, Williamson said she knows smoking is bad because people have criticized her since she took up the practice 20 years ago.

"I really don't pay that much attention to it," she said. "If people don't like it, that's their opinion. They've got theirs and I've got mine."

She has tried every way to quit without success, she said.

As for smoking while pregnant, she said her doctor told her "it would be good if I cut back, but if I totally quit, it would not only cause stress on me but it would cause stress on the baby."

Speaking generally, Eric Earnhart, spokesman for Carilion Health System, said any pregnant person who comes to its facilities "is going to be advised to quit smoking."

It is possible, he said, that a person having difficulty quitting would be advised at least to cut down.

Williamson said she has cut down from two packs per day to one-half pack.

Smoking is estimated to account for 20 percent to 30 percent of low birth-weight babies, up to 14 percent of preterm deliveries and 10 percent of all infant deaths. Asthma is twice as likely in children whose mothers smoke more than 10 cigarettes per day. This is just a fraction of the possible harm.

"The most effective way to protect the fetus is to quit smoking," the American Lung Association says.

Williamson is a small woman with long brown hair. She didn't finish high school. She hasn't seen her father since she was 13. She has worked in fast food, but doesn't have a job.

"I've heard of the Internet," she said, "but I've never used it. I have no knowledge of computers whatsoever."

She didn't learn about her widespread critics until a few days after the photo appeared. Her ex-husband said his co-workers had talked about it.

"It didn't bother me," she said. "It went in one ear and out the other. I've heard this all my life."

I think she's an easy target, and I think Andrea Siebentritt of the American Cancer Society had the most thoughtful response.

"We have to see her as an audience we need to reach out to," she said.
Comments 
15th-Oct-2004 06:27 am (UTC)
Shit hit the fan in my LJ when I commented about that. She also came to this community's initial posting to express her views.

16th-Oct-2004 11:56 pm (UTC)
From reading your LJ post, I'd have to agree with you on your points. And strongly disagree with solfsilveroak.....
15th-Oct-2004 06:52 am (UTC)
But egomaniacal talk-radio hosts should be viewed with antipathy because they troll for people to demean. "Mercy" is not in their vocabularies. Their favorite word begins and ends with "I."

Illuminati?
15th-Oct-2004 07:03 am (UTC)
Fnord...
15th-Oct-2004 07:27 am (UTC)
I first thought of badly spelled "irony" and was about to really ask for the real word when it struck me.
Took me some time to figure it, but I blame my Frenchness for it (English isn't my first language, so I don't have automated answers to that kind of things).
15th-Oct-2004 07:35 am (UTC)
Iroquoi?
15th-Oct-2004 07:41 am (UTC)
Rats, you beat me to it.
15th-Oct-2004 09:42 am (UTC)
Ignorance?
15th-Oct-2004 10:02 am (UTC) - or
ignorami :P
5th-Nov-2011 05:44 pm (UTC) - Re: or
Ignoratti

I think all newspapers should make the ignoratti actually type out what it is they wish to say, so that the full flavor of the stupid can come out. It is being hidden behind the veneer of the report's pen and vocabulary.
Let them speak for themselves, and do not alter one word of what they say for any reason.
15th-Oct-2004 08:18 am (UTC)
"It didn't bother me," she said. "It went in one ear and out the other.

I have a feeling that a lot of things go in one ear and out the other with her.
15th-Oct-2004 09:19 am (UTC)
Hmm, I agree smoking is bad for unborn children. I however have had to deal & talk with a friend who smoked during pregnancy.

She tried to stop and got so stressed that she was told the stress was more likely to harm the baby than the smoking.

She did go from 30/day full strength to 10/day mild low tar.

and she was not dumb, poorly educated or any of the things leveled at this woman.

She knew it wasn't good - but in the end she & her midwife decided that she should cut down as much as possible without stressing herself out too much as both can damage the unborn.

Yeah, cutting it out is best (Actually never starting is even better...) but I watched her try. and fail.

And no, I'm not commenting on the Jackhammer noise bit. just the smoking :)
15th-Oct-2004 10:07 am (UTC) - my p.o.v.
it's like the movie dangerous minds, you have a choice in everything you do.

she may not have made the choice to get knocked up, but she made the choice to continue smoking.

she may not have made the choice to have the jackhammer noise going on, but she chose to live in that specific area.

i do have a serious issue with smoking. it's another choice people make, and i can't really say it's ever for the better. if you're going about pregnancy the 'right way', you don't consume any alcohol, smoke cigarettes, do any drugs during pregnancy. you eat healthy and stay healthy, for the sake of your baby, if not for your own.
15th-Oct-2004 11:32 am (UTC)
I don't understand... are we supposed to be mocking this poor girl who's unmarried and pregnant, doing what is within her means to be what SHE feels is the best for her baby, or are we mocking the media for mocking her along with being insensitive/ignorant to the real potential for damage from stress of quitting smoking.

And what the heck does her build, hair color, and the fact that she hasn't seen her father since she was 13yrs old have to do with anything?

media = stupid
15th-Oct-2004 12:46 pm (UTC)
I think it's more along the lines of mocking her for not giving a shit about her baby... the jackhammer/baby comment being just another way to whine about the noise/annoyance of the construction.
15th-Oct-2004 01:11 pm (UTC)
I don't know what I'm supposed to mock, either. Considering she lives in a bad area, it's lucky that she's not drinking or doing cocaine. She HAS cut down, and while it would of course be best if she quit smoking altogether, some people just CAN'T do it at the snap of a finger without causing high levels stress that would actually harm the child more. Thirdly, the jackhammer noise DOES affect her stress and the health of the child, so it's a legitimate concern.

Obviously I disagree with her choice, but does it go under the category of "unquestionably stupid"? I'm not so sure.
16th-Oct-2004 03:20 am (UTC)
I think the question is why she chose to have a cigarette in one of the photos, or why the newspaper chose to run said photo.
16th-Oct-2004 04:03 pm (UTC)
Acctually, I beleive I read somewher ethat stopping cold turkey during pregnancy is bad aswell. Slowly cutting down is what your supposed to do.
16th-Oct-2004 08:40 pm (UTC)
I think the thing is her attitude towards everything and how she doesn't seem to consider them to be "relevant". This probably had a LOT to do with where and how she is now.
17th-Oct-2004 04:44 am (UTC)
Because you know, everyone that lives in a bad area is prone to shooting smack and selling themselves on the corner as tricks, right? Of course.
17th-Oct-2004 11:47 am (UTC)
don't get your panties in a bunch. Yes, people are shaped by their environment. People raised by stupid people have a greater chance of being stupid. People with a permanent income are prone to be insensitive to those who are less fortunate. I realize not everyone fits into stereotypes, but depending on what surrounds you, you are more "prone" to do so. Remember Nietzsche: "And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."
16th-Oct-2004 04:02 pm (UTC)
My mom smoked with all 4 of yus, and her mom smoked with all 6 of hers. Just saying...
17th-Oct-2004 07:30 pm (UTC)
Just saying what? That your anecdotal evidence of yours actually means much of anything?
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