Last login: Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Dear Claire Trageser and colleagues at KPBS,
I listened to your story this AM about delayed vaccine schedules. And then I read the text version online.
You and/or your editor made several mistakes that I feel are harmful to the public. The worst being:
1) Giving all sides of an argument equal time/weight, even when one of them is objectively in the wrong.2) Omitting important information that would help people distinguish the relative credibility of each side.3) Potentially endangering the public by giving media exposure to ideas that can put our health at risk.
The print version at least had a paragraph stating that Wakefield's article linking vaccines to autism was discredited. But it said that work was "largely discredited" rather than "fraudulent". BIG difference. And leaving this out of the radio version is downright negligent.
The article also gave equal weight to the opinion of a random pediatrician (favoring delayed vaccine schedules) and to the opinion of a research immunologist studying vaccines (opposed). A pediatrician is someone who must be a generalist, has probably read a few opinion articles and abstracts on this topic, and who's practice is influenced by human factors. An immunologist is someone who is dedicated to this one topic and is intimately familiar with the data and the facts, not just the summaries and opinions and desires of parents who have read scary articles from a misinformed media.
Finally the article has a narrative structure that makes the vaccine doubters seem more human and those on the side of evidence based medicine seem more robotic. A representative tidbit from the print article:
"But clearly she’s been listening to her dad, and she makes a point for him. She gets shots, she says, "because we don't want the sickness from the sick people.""
In the radio version the language and your tone of voice are much more dismissive:
"clearly coached by her dad, she makes his point for him. She gets shots, she says ..."
In summary, even in the print version this article is misinformation. In the radio edit, it is reckless.
Since we all tend to listen to the opinions of people we know over strangers, let me leave you with a few links from your colleagues at NPR's On The Media about the dangers of irresponsible media coverage of vaccination. Please pay particular attention to the argument that the media coverage of these false "controversies" is the real problem.
Thank you for reading this. I hope that it helps increase the value of reporting at KPBS, a station I value and have supported for 10 years.
-Jason Fleischer, Ph.D.The Neurosciences Institute
September 18, 2013 at 3:49 p.m.
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