Going overboard on birth notices
Obviously, we're not pleased with Mayo and Rochester Methodist's new policy of not releasing birth information, apparently for security reasons moreso than privacy concerns. As reported in our news story Tuesday, Methodist administrators made the decision based on policies recommended by national child abduction prevention organizations.
As far as I know, birth information has been released only with parent approval, and that remains the policy at Mayo Health System's Austin Medical Center. Presumably parents also sign off on information released by Olmsted Medical Center, which also continues to provide that information to the P-B.
With those safeguards in place (and others, including effective security at hospitals), it seems perfectly reasonable to announce a child's birth in the newspaper. Births are important news in every community, and birth announcements are some of the best-read content in the Post-Bulletin every day. Online, we have about 2,000 page views of birth information every day. Believe me, if we fail to publish births on a given day, or if we miss a newborn, our readers let us know immediately.
I don't see a reason to get into a debate with Rochester Methodist or activists at the Center for Missing and Exploited Children; I'm not interested in being cast on the wrong side of the issue of child safety. Taken to an extreme, though, just about every piece of news published about a child can be called an invitation to crime or abduction. We think it's reasonable to publish birth news, and I'm sure parents will continue to provide that information directly. That raises the bar for us to verify information, but we've taken out-of-town birth information directly from parents (and grandparents) for years.
As one person who commented on the news story says, maybe Methodist (with the parents' approval) could release the information after the parents and child have been discharged, if abduction from the hospital is a concern.
In any case, as another reader commented on the story, it's "sad that we as a society have come to this."