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If you’re like me, you avoid the Wednesday “Family” section in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. It’s a little too sticky for my taste; too saccharine sweet. That, and the times I’ve flipped through never failed to remind me of the first few months after my son was born, when every nimrod who ever changed a diaper — relatives, distant relatives, people in the park, people in line at the grocery store — came out of the woodwork, full of good advice that wasn’t.
If you skipped the section published May 24, however, you missed a gem: a mea culpa by holier-than-thou, “whup ’em first and ask questions later” parenting columnist John Rosemond. (In case you didn’t know, Rosemond is a child psychologist and the author of Bible-centered parenting guides like “Parenting by the Book,” and “The New Parent Power,” which advocate, among other things, the use of spanking to discipline children.) Syndicated in more than 100 newspapers, Rosemond recently admitted to a number of journalistic no-nos, including recycling content, using “composite” questions, and changing the characteristics of those who wrote in for his advice.
The discovery of Rosemond’s troubles came after a copy editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recognized the word “dysgraphia” in one of the writer’s columns. Looking back through the archives, the editor discovered an identical column that had been submitted by Rosemond in 1999. Rosemond’s home paper, the Charlotte Observer, was notified, and an investigation by editors revealed that he had used previously published content at least four times in 2006, 12 times in 2005, six times in 2004 and three times in 2003. Rosemond has been writing his weekly parenting column for 28 years.
In addition to recycling content, Rosemond also admitted to Observer editors that he sometimes fictionalized the situations and other personal information of those who submitted letters to him in the name of protecting their privacy, and that he sometimes made up “composite” questions to answer, based on several questions he had received on the same topic.
In a short apology published along with his column in the May 24 issue of the Dem-Gaz and other papers, Rosemond addressed only the issue of resubmitting previously published work, and only admitted to doing so “in late 2005 and early 2006.”
Rosemond said that he had misunderstood about the need to notify his editor when resubmitting an old column, and said his recycling of old content was the result of being preoccupied with the long hospitalization and deaths of his mother-in-law, his father and his stepmother.
Calling the period “an unusual and trying eight months,” he wrote, “During this time, I was sometimes unable to meet my column deadline satisfactorily. So, I fell back on what I thought was an acceptable option: rerunning old columns. This is not the first time I have done so, but what had been occasional became often.”
Since the revelations about Rosemond came to light, at least one paper, The Ledger in Lakeland, Fla., has dropped his column. He’s sticking at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, though. Frank Fellone, deputy editor of the Dem-Gaz, said that Rosemond’s apology is enough.
“We are dismayed,” Fellone said. “But we are appreciative of the fact that Rosemond flogged himself in this week’s column. A public flogging exonerates many sins.”
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