Changing how the world thinks about nursing

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Q: You're critical of a lot of what the media does, but you also try to be fair even to media products that you think cause harm to nursing. Aren't advocacy groups supposed to argue that everything they dislike is pure evil?

A: In our experience, many advocacy and charitable groups have a consistent message: what we're describing is nothing short of a total disaster, and it can be averted only if you do what we want, whether that is a particular policy action or the donation of funds. It is unusual for such groups to admit in public that the object of their critical attention has any positive elements. We recognize that such groups have doubtless made the judgment that their audience is more likely to feel a sense of urgency if the group's communications demonize opponents and adopt a "sky is falling" approach.

We feel these approaches can also have a negative effect on advocacy groups' credibility. After a while, it is difficult to take what such groups say seriously; they may seem to be the advocacy groups that cried wolf. This may not matter greatly in some contexts. If supporters simply trust that however fair or balanced the specifics of a given group's appeal, that group is certainly pushing in the right direction, that may be enough. And if the group is screaming about something, it must have a reason. The fairness of a particular communication may be beside the point.

However, the Truth is not simply trying to raise money for a worthy cause, or to pass or defeat a given policy proposal. We are trying to promote better understanding of the nursing profession. In our view, understanding is not enhanced by blatantly one-sided analyses that pretend a particular item has only negative (or positive) aspects. The popular NBC show "ER" has done significant damage to nursing, pushing the handmaiden image deep into tens of millions of minds around the world. But some episodes have made efforts to show something of what nursing is about, and we would not be promoting understanding if we did not acknowledge that.

In addition, unlike some groups, the Truth spends a great deal of time praising and explaining media products that do a good job of portraying nursing. Once again, to pretend that all media depictions are bad for nursing might generate more support or funding, but it would not really promote understanding. Nor would it encourage those who create good depictions of nursing to keep up the good work.

It is critical to our mission that everyone with an interest--from nurses to those who create media to the public--gains a better understanding of the media's treatment of nursing, and how to analyze it. We think the best way to do that is to be as fair and balanced as we can be. We realize that those who create some of the media we analyze may not find our analyses to be all that fair. We also realize that some very successful groups take a different approach, focusing exclusively on what they see as problems, and we are not suggesting we know more than they do. We are saying only that our approach seems like the right one for our specific mission.

last updated: January 15, 2005