As you may recall, I faxed Katie Couric a while back making some comments and asking for some information. I find that the CBS coverage of autism is, well, a bit odd. Sharyl Attkisson seems to be promoting an idea, not following a story where it leads. The main example I give for that is the total lack of a followup to the assertion made by Bernadine Healy that “[t]here is a completely expressed concern that they don’t want to pursue a hypothesis because that hypothesis could be damaging to the public health community at large by scaring people.” Who, precisely, aside from Dr. Healy expressing this concern?
The Voices For Vaccines fax which preceded mine was posted an autism/vaccine advocacy website within hours of being sent, begging the question of who within CBS news sent it, and why there is such a close tie between the two.
Anyway, I shouldn’t rewrite the entire previous blog post–the short version is: I had questions. I still do. That’s right, I still do.
I’m not complaining, just pointing out a simple fact: CBS didn’t take the time to respond to simple questions about their reporting.
Now, take a newer event in the autism world. In preparation for the Every Child By Two press conference last week, some comments were made on the Yahoo group dedicated to the “Green our Vaccines” rally. One comment in particular by Dr. Jay Gordon struck me as rather bothersome. The comment was directed at a person named Avrielle Gallagher, who works for Larry King Live.
Being in the mode of wondering about how the media works, especially those apparantly sympathetic to the vaccine/autism causality question, I decided to contact Ms. Gallagher. I sent the following email to the same address Dr. Gordon used. For good measure, I used the Larry King Live website to send the same message:
I saw an email from Dr. Jay Gordon to you. It was posted on the JennDCRally autism list. The email is listed below.
Could you explain what is meant by the term, “[redacted]? I see that you work for Larry King Live. Is he asking you to do a show on the conflicts of interest of these groups?
If so, perhaps you would like to read a few analyses of Dr. Offit’s conflicts of interest. I looked into the public data and posted my views here:
I rewrote this and faxed it to Katie Couric of CBS, as noted here:
As you will see, I am not in agreement with Dr. Gordon. You will also see that I am the parent of a young child with autism, one who does not subscribe to the autism/vaccine concept.
Rather than “[redacted comment]”, I would like you to consider going after a good, reasoned story. I would especially like to see a good, reasoned story on the subject of Dr. Offit’s new book, “Autism’s False Prophets”. This is causing quite a stir amongst the alt-med subset of the autism community. They have publicly stated that they have targeted Dr. Offit and those are also promoting vaccination (like Amanda Peet).
As you will see from my posts, Dr. Offit appears to have no more financial conflicts of interest regarding vaccines. He is actually in a position of high independence. And, yet, he still promotes the same message as before. That should tell us all something. In addition, his book is going to be a big story.
So, I ask a simple question: will you go after the story or the person?
I look forward to a response.
I’m still looking forward to a response. I’m an optimist that way, I guess.
Oh, you are no doubt wondering why I redacted Dr. Jay’s exact words. You see, after a bit I decided to email him. I admit, I should have emailed him from the start, but I did wait a few days.
Dr. Gordron, I saw the below message from the JennyDCRally autism group.
If I may, could I ask what you mean by “[redacted].”?
Given that Avrielle Gallagher works for Larry King Live, this sounds like you are asking for Larry King to do a show about these people in a poor light.
I am the parent of a child with autism. Surely you can see that the image of the autism community (or segments of the autism community) as a group that would use the media to “[redacted]” is something that I would like to avoid. While we as a community may be divided on some issues, I would bet that the majority would agree that we rely heavily on the support of the majority of the public.
I look forward to your response.
Even though I misspelled his name, he responded within a couple of hours:
You’re correct, that was very poorly phrased.
What I meant was that there should be more light shined on the financial conflicts of interest which exist.
When I notified him that I intended to include his comments in this piece, he replied:
The first statement I made reflected my anger. I really do think there is far too much conflict of interest in the lives of many of the vaccine researchers, the CDC and the AAP.
The brief email answer I sent you reflects my true feelings about this.
Please feel free to quote me and, if you do, please also mention that I certainly don’t think that my being immoderate in my comments helps anybody.
Dr. Gordon did what Katie Couric, Sharyl Attkisson, Avrielle Gallagher, and the staffs for CBS News and Larry King Live failed to do: answer simple and (I hope) respectfully posed questions.
I could give a long list of the people who have answered simple, sometimes even complicated, questions, respectfully posed. I’ve been very fortunate in that regard. I would have loved to add CBS News and Larry King Live to the list.
It all just makes me wonder. CBS News and Larry King have spent decades reporting on how this person or that company or some group in the government ignored questions. Invariably, those reports cast a bad light on the groups investigated. And, yet, when presented the opportunity to clarify their own actions, they chose to be silent.
Maybe I’ll send a respectful question to Voices For Vaccines and ask if CBS News responded to their concerns. I know that CBS took the time to respond to the Orange County Register’s blog on Autism.
In their reply to the Inside Autism blog, CBS News noted:
…We believe our report was in no way defamatory of any institution or individual, and that no retraction is warranted…
As I’ve noted before, I like the irony of CBS News deciding for itself whether it was defamatory. Strikes me odd given the complaints alleged against, well, basically everyone the vaccine/autism groups have ever complained about.
But, I digress. I’d like to point out that I didn’t claim CBS was “defamatory”. I only bring this up to point out that even though CBS communicated with the Register blog, they haven’t addressed my questions.
A commenter on the Register’s blog said it best in her response to Lisa Randall of Voices For Vaccines. The Register’s blogger decided to highlight the comment, and I pull out the segment that caught my eye here:
…We expect the press to tell us the truth…
The first step is to tell us anything.