Mildly Inappropriate Mommy presents an exercise in parenting journalism…
I'm still somewhat new to the parenting beat, but one thing I've been quick to notice is that some parenting news item can spread quicker than pink eye in a playground. Case in point: What outlet *didn't* cover the French parenting story? We did … twice!
But just as with any other beat, sometimes what's labeled "news" or, worse, a "trend" in parenting isn't all that it's cracked up to be. I was asked last week to look into the "babyccino" trend; the apparently growing number of parents, largely in Brooklyn, N.Y., buying decaffeinated, coffee-like beverages for their toddlers at local coffee houses. At least four New York media outlets covered the 'ccino phenomenon and I was eager to get my own (decaf) fix.
This was slated to be a blog, not a full-fledged story, so I figured that with about two calls to coffee houses reported to be serving babyccinos, one call to a medical expert and a few hyperlinks to the original outlets reporting the story and I'd be done. (Pulitzer committee, are you paying attention?)
Little did I know that my hopes would soon be ground down finer than a smooth Colombian roast. When I called one of the coffee shops cited in the media as serving the babyccinos, the owner told me flat out that he thought the trend was exaggerated and that, at most, each month his shop sold between one or two small steamed milk drinks, what the press was calling babyccinos. He said he and his employees certainly didn't call them babyccinos and hadn't even heard the name until newspapers started reporting on it.
Next, after calling several times, I managed to reach the owner of another one of the shops mentioned in the news. She said she sometimes sold steamed milk to parents to give to their kids, but there, too, no one called them babyccinos.
Some reports have suggested that some babyccino drinks include actual decaf espresso. This particular shop owner conceded it was possible that at some point her customers had requested espresso drinks for their children, but she wasn't sure. The only other relevant thing she could think to add was that about two years ago, a customer ordered a decaf latte for his child and she recalled thinking, "Why would you give that to your kid?"
I had one last hope. I had read that a coffee shop in Manhattan co-owned by none other than Aussie acting and singing sensation Hugh Jackman - he of the land that reportedly invented babyccinos - not only sold babyccinos but sold them under the name of Paloma, after co-owner David Steingard's 18-month old daughter. If an enterprise related to Wolverine was engaging in the babyccino bonanza, surely this story had claws.
I left Steingard a message and, happily, he called back … and proceeded to explain that while, yes, the Paloma drink did exist - Steingard dressed up his steamed milk concoction with honey - pretty much the only person who ever drank it was his eponymous daughter. Steingard was quick to politely point out that he wasn't trying to debunk the trend, just that he hadn't witnessed it personally.
Maybe I was unlucky. Perhaps if I had managed to get through to other shops, I would have reached baristas who would have regaled me with fascinating tales of tot-toting parents banging down their doors, begging for babyccinos. But experience has taught me that if you have to do a lot of legwork to validate a supposed trend, it might not be big enough to be worth reporting, at least not yet.
Ten years from now, when a chain called Babyccinos overtakes Starbucks to dominate the world coffeehouse scene and Sesame Street introduces a character named Decaf Java Monster, I'll be eating my words. But for now, how about those French parents? Que magnifique!
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