Where’s Paul Harvey? We need the rest of the story

You’ve probably heard about Alaina Giordano, the North Carolina Stage IV mom  told to give custody of her two children her husband, who lives in Chicago, in part because “children who have a parent with cancer need more contact with the non-ill parent.”

According to the New York Times:

Judge Nancy Gordon ordered Giordano’s children, Sofia, 11, and Bud, 5, to relocate by June 17 from Durham, N.C., to Chicago to live with their father even though Giordano, who says she is strong and able to parent, reports her metastatic cancer is under control.

“In her ruling, Judge Nancy Gordon cited forensic psychologist Dr. Helen Brantley,” according to Good Morning America: “The more contact [the children] have with the non-ill parent, the better they do. They divide their world into the cancer world and a free of cancer world. Children want a normal childhood, and it is not normal with an ill parent.”

I’m not a lawyer, but I disagree with Judge Gordon’s decision. Others have made eloquent cases why this is wrong. Beyond the ill parent precedent, what about children wanting a normal childhood?

Define normal.

The courts will be jammed as minors swarm forth to be emancipated from abnormal parents who, you know, make you go to bed at 8 pm and won’t let you drink pop.

I have to disagree with Judge Gordon. Having cancer doesn’t mean you can’t be a good mom and by all accounts Mrs. Giordano is an excellent one.

But–and everyone has a big but as noted legal scholar Pee-Wee Herman has observed–I am a journalist and all the reports I have seen on this case have more holes in them than an explosion at a donut factory.

Alaina Giordano is stable. She, as any cancer patient  can understand, doesn’t want to leave her doctors at Duke. Most stable women with similar a similar diagnosis will see their doctor once a month or perhaps even every other month. Typically the oncologist asks about new symptoms and does blood work. How do Mrs. Giordano’s monthly visits compare?

It’s also common to have a monthly infusion (IV) of a bone boosting drug such as Zometa. This is not chemotherapy and has mild side effects.

Reporters:  Mrs. Giordano medical details are private. But when you go on “Good Morning America” I believe you waive that right. Does Mrs. Giordano have a rare breast cancer that can be treated only at Duke? It is it a more common kind? What are the typical treatments?  Is there a reason she can’t fly back to NC for treatment?

You can’t have it both ways: Healthy enough to be a good parent but so gravely ill you must remain in the same zip code as your cancer center. We need more facts to know the truth.

Both sides seem to have engaged in a lot of mud flinging. Just like  Captain Renault  in Casablanca, I am SHOCKED, SHOCKED, that two people in a custody fight might not have good things to say about each other.

Mrs. Giordano has been described as unemployed. The New York Times now says she is a freelance editor/writer. Every freelancer I know has an extensive website showcasing past work and inviting potential clients to contact them.

All I could find for Mrs. Giordano  is a LinkedIn account with three contacts.

Reporters: As the Chicago City News Bureau used to say : “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

Alaina Giordano didn’t get a fair shake from Judge Nancy Gordon. The cancer card was clearly used against her. But to quote my own mom: Two wrongs don’t make a right.

This is a sad and messy case. For Sofia and Bud’s sake, I hope their parents will take a deep breath, set aside their personal grievances and do the right thing.


This editorial in the Herald-Sun adds some sorely lacking perspective:

The news coverage has been irresponsible.

In pursuit of a hot headline, reporters omitted information that might have told a complete, complex story — or, perhaps, made viewers and readers consider whether this family’s custody fight is news at all.

Media reports ignored the part of the ruling in which Giordano’s oncologist testified Giordano regularly skipped treatment and ignored medical advice. Her doctor said Giordano “was making her disease into a crisis.” According to a psychiatric evaluation from UNC, those crises make her “unavailable to provide care to the children.”

It describes an incident in which Giordano was advised not to bring the children to the hospital because she was going to be admitted for treatment.

She ignored that advice and made no arrangements for her children’s care.

Giordano’s oncologist took the children home with her to avoid having to call Child Protective Services.

The oncologist called it a “crisis.” Giordano told the court it was “a great opportunity” for the children to get to know her doctor better.

There are other factors — page after page of testimony about Giordano’s infidelity, both parents’ allegations of assault, inappropriate comments to their children, and a lack of healthy boundaries between both parents’ emotional lives and their children.

The news coverage has been inexcusably sloppy, thoughtless and one-sided — the opposite of good journalism.

The chase for a provoctive story has exploited viewers, readers and, most horribly, the 6- and 11-year-old children whose parents’ custody fight is now a matter of global gossip

9 thoughts on “Where’s Paul Harvey? We need the rest of the story

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more Katherine. I’m afraid I have to cop to being a fencesitter on this one. Without all the facts I feel hopelessly unqualified to make a judgement either way.

  2. Katie says:

    This is really interesting Katherine. I so want to believe that this is a simple case of a judge being a whackjob and that’s all, but you make an excellent case.


  3. latasha says:

    Bottom line is the kids are hurt due to the bickering 😦

  4. katherineMBC says:

    The chase for a provoctive story has exploited viewers, readers and, most horribly, the 6- and 11-year-old children whose parents’ custody fight is now a matter of global gossip
    Read more: The Herald-Sun – Don t call it journalism

  5. petey says:

    According to the story aired on abc eywitness news11 out of Durham,NC on thursday May12,this woman’s children are NOT being taken away because she has cancer. The story revealed ALAINA WAS NOT ACTING IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF HER CHILDREN. Usually in life, ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS. And, in this case, even though Alaina is trying to gain sympathy for cancer, I feel by omitting important information she is misleading and scaring mothers into thinking if they get cancer or another serious disease, they could lose custody of their children. And, this is just not the case. Check out the website http://www.uneasypink.com, and read the article “Remember that due diligence thing?” It is a real eye opener!!

  6. Lara says:

    Actually neither parent lived like saints but the father abandoned the children and moved to Chicago and had no interest in gaining custody until he found he could use her illness against her. If she is so bad for the children, then she could not share custody by half if she moved to Chicago. This judge is a hanger on of this forensic shrink. They live in the same town and I would bet money rub elbows whenever they can. It is not like this shrink is treating the children. Her views had no place in this court case. The unemployment rate in NC is better than most places because we have so many military installations and the research triangle. If her husband is skilled at doing more than flipping hamburgers then he is able to get a job here. And furthermore, employment is not a deciding factor in whether a parent is fit or not. Judge Gordon needs to be removed from the bench. If this ruling is not overturned I feel certain she will be going back to her private law practice in the next election.

    • katherinembc says:

      What is Judge Gordon’s record? Has she been sanctioned? Are there any pending complaints/misconduct charges? Similarly, what about the doctor? Does she have a history of providing misleading testimony? Has she been accused of perjury? What legal representation has been offered to the children? In some states, the public guardian would intervene to act in their best interest.

  7. Thank you for saying it! This case has been handled so poorly in the media that journalists should be ashamed. Unfortunately, there is not enough information to reach Lara’s conclusion…unless she has insider information that no one else does. Presumption about what parents are like and can handle are only presumptions. Just the facts, ma’am! Just the facts.

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