The news of "crack babies" took the media by storm in the 1980s with a flood of heart-wrenching drama about addicted mothers having children who were expected to be disruptive, damaged for life, and expensive to care for. Except it wasn't true.
A new, non-profit documentary news organization, Retro Report, has been working in collaboration with the New York Times to follow up on high-profile news stories of decades past. Published in 10- to 12-minute long documentary videos, the third issue they’ve chosen to reexamine is the “crack baby epidemic.”
"In the 1980s, the media sounded the alarm that a new drug - crack cocaine - was taking over American cities, and that it had an especially devastating effect on pregnant women and their newborns," begins the video’s narrator Zachary Green.
The Retro Report untangles this myth through firsthand accounts by many of those who were there: the researcher who published the first alarming study; a pediatric expert who doubted the findings at the time; and one of the original crack baby research subjects, a woman whose college degree and success has helped dispel the abysmal future that all of the major news outlets were promising.
The initial study included only 23 infants and the lead researcher now says the findings were blown out of proportion. Pediatric researchers reveal that so-called crack baby symptoms, like tremors and low birth weight, are not exclusive to cocaine-exposed babies; they are common in many premature babies.
And in fact, alcohol has proven to be a much more serious problem than cocaine during pregnancy, according to the New York Times.
The Retro Report is comprised of a group of 12 journalists and six contributors; it was founded by former television editor Christopher Buck, whose dad was a founder of the Subway restaurant chain. Started with a grant from the senior Buck, the mission of the Retro Report is to “peel back the layers of some of the most perplexing news stories of our past with the goal of encouraging the public to think more critically about current events and the media.”
Watch the segment, "Crack Babies: A Tale from the Drug Wars," below:
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