Watchdog Q&A

Published — March 13, 2020

Q&A: Kristen Bahler on how OB-GYNs use Reddit to help people in need

Doctor sitting front of table with girl by Francisco Venâncio

Introduction

We’re continuing our series featuring journalists who have reported on powerful stories.

This week, we’re highlighting Kristen Bahler, who reported on how OB-GYNs are using Reddit to help people who desperately need advice. In the age of public budget cuts and anti-abortion legislation, some medical providers are helping women on the subbreddit r/WomensHealth to connect with people who need answers about everything from STDs to what a breast lump feels like. The community especially helps women who fear that if their worst suspicions are true, they won’t be able to afford treatment. 

How did you get the story? What led you to pursue it?

Women in rural America are facing a healthcare crisis, especially when it comes to sexual and maternal wellness. 

Previous reporting on this issue has spotlighted its impact on specific communities — like a 2018 story in the New York Times that looked at Dunklin County, a low-income part of Missouri that doesn’t have a single birthing hospital. I wanted to use a wider lens, and show how it’s damaging the livelihood of women of all ages and backgrounds. Diving into the stories shared on Reddit’s women’s groups (r/OBGYN, r/healthyhooha, etc) allowed me to do that. 

What were the challenges of reporting and how did you navigate them? Where do you look for inspiration? 

Like all longform pieces, there were a billion different ways to tell this story. In the end, I focused specifically on doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals who are going on Reddit to help scared and vulnerable women. These people are unsung heroes — some will literally clock out of work after a 24-hour shift at a hospital and spend the next three or four hours surfing Reddit to find more women to help. But when you ask them about it, they all say it’s just an extension of their job. That’s fascinating to me. 

As far as inspiration goes, I’m perpetually inspired by ASME’s “Best American Magazine Writing” anthologies. I look forward to the new edition every year, and read it manically on the subway/get really sad when I’m done. 

The takeaway: Sometimes, the best way to have your ear on the ground is to get online.

Read more in Inside Public Integrity

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