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A Broken Trust: Lessons from the Vaccine–Autism Wars

  • Liza Gross mail

    lgross@plos.org

    Affiliation: Senior Science Writer/Editor, PLoS Biology, Public Library of Science, San Francisco, California, United States of America

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  • Published: May 26, 2009
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000114

Reader Comments (9)

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Journalists not to blame

Posted by kelly1 on 01 Jun 2009 at 13:24 GMT

I understand Dr. Offit’s position that journalists purportedly fanned the flames of the anti-vaccination fears, but our democracy would be in serious trouble if Journalisms gatekeepers were to anoint themselves "God" and make such decisions for the public. Or even choose to marginalize whole segments of the population because someone else did not like their point of view. Neither Dr. Offit nor journalists can force people to believe something they don’t wish to believe.

Journalists acknowledge that they are not always objective just as good scientists do. It is the process that is objective not the person.

As Dr. Offit knows from reading the letters and editorials in medical journals confirmation bias, publication bias, dissemination bias and intent to treat errors are very real and serious errors that can skew the very treatments that are intended to positively impact the lives of patients. Misconduct does occur.

It is unfortunate when anyone regardless of their position chooses power, position and money over the public good.

Perhaps instead of blaming journalists who are doing their job correctly, Dr. Offit would do well to understand that when scientists and/or governments choose to conceal evidence regardless of the field of study, or sometimes just give the appearance of doing so, the public has a long memory.

Is this one of those cases? Time will tell. What we don't know far outstrips what we do know when it comes to science and medicine and this has always been so.

Our understanding of causation is moving far beyond the simplicity of Koch's Postulates to an understanding of the synergy that results when there are multiple variables, causes and contributions in an outcome.

No competing interests declared.

RE: Journalists not to blame

jamesklambert replied to kelly1 on 07 Jun 2009 at 01:33 GMT

In short: Yes, they are!

To many so-called "journalists" today are just sensationalists pretending to do the public good by hyping up false and misleading stories, while giving undue weight to people who have no intellectual leg to stand on. You can't simple wipe away all responsibility for this sorry state of affairs just because there is a public need for the good work that some journalists do.

Best,
JKL

No competing interests declared.