Friday, May 18, 2007

That Diaper Thing Was Real...Sort Of

A few days ago I pointed out the story from the Canadian Press wire service about the advent of adult diapers intended for use by gamblers who can't be bothered to leave the craps table to, uh, take a crap. I pitched it to one of my editors at the New York Times with an appetite for frivolous story ideas but who was skeptical. So, too, was my own journalist partner, Miles, who opted not to include it in his Vegas newscast when he could not find anywhere in the piece the name of the company nor, in a Google search, any evidence of any company selling or advertising such a thing. All he came up with was a zillion versions of the wire story from Dirk Meissner of the CP.

I emailed the Mr. Meissner's editors to ask if the story might have been fabricated. I received a response from the CP's British Columbia Bureau Chief Katherine Bell pointing me directly to the online advertisement that indicated the diapers were for "all-night gamblers."

But here's the thing: The advertisement was deep within a Craigslist-style site. See it for yourself. Anyone could have posted it for free and, anyhow, the gambling angle is just one of several SUGGESTED uses. The reporter did not name the company nor quote the proprietor, so there's no evidence that anyone has actually bought one of these things to enable their gambling habit. The proprietor turns out to have a Web-based company called Natural Health Depot. She's just a tiny little vendor.

So what, you ask? Well, Mr. Meissner used this as the bouncing off point for a lengthy meditation on the evils of gambling addiction, quoting experts who view this "development" as more proof of the deleterious impact of casinos and lotteries, etc. That's a fine topic for exploration, but not on the back of a bullet point of an Internet advertisement. Mr. Meissner paraphrases one source as saying: "People who wear diapers to casinos are not increasing their chances of winning ... and it indicates their level of delusion about playing the machines." See? We have a situation for which we have no evidence or testimony and then we have psychoanalysis of the imaginary crazy people too!

Interesting also that the same ad suggested it might be useful for all-night truckers. Where's the big story about overworked truck drivers and the hazards they pose to the highway? I bet lots of older people at casinos happen to be wearing diapers because they're old and incontinent and also wear them to their granddaughters' ballet recitals, but a trucker needing diapers because he/she feels so much pressure to get there that he/she can't stop for a wee when facilities are every few miles?

I'm not going to judge Mr. Meissner on one story alone. He did just recently receive an honorable mention for breaking news coverage on a boat disaster from the National Newspaper Awards in Canada. But on this one, he goofed. And, worse yet, the editor who green-lit this piece goofed. And, given the utter obscurity of this advertisement, I'm curious how Mr. Meissner, who is surely too busy to be browsing online for diapers, came across it. I suspect one of the anti-gambling sources he quoted pointed him to it. Or maybe the owner of the company, but then why no quotes from her?

I do love this sentence from Ms. Bell in the email: "While it is understandable that the New York Times would be concerned about reporters fabricating stories..." Yowza. A not-so-veiled reference to Jayson Blair? When was that, three years ago?

Just thank me for not putting up the close-up of the red diapers. Even I'm not that cruel.


TheStripPodcast.Com said...
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Goozak said...

About the truckers: I remembered reading a story about that several months ago (found it) about "urine bombs".
Can't imagine how they manage to do that while driving. I guess the diaper is a welcomed alternative...

LinFronNJ said...

Bad job Mr. Meissner.
By the way, it's creepy that the diapers are reusable. Yech!