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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Press Coverage and Autism

An earlier post cited a Sun-Sentinel story on potentially dangerous treatment.

Our Review Summary

A new and unproven approach to autism pops up in a local community. A reporter and his newspaper have several choices:

  1. Accept the claims of the promoters at face value
  2. Ignore the issue entirely.
  3. Dig in, scrutinize the claims, and attempt a public service by evaluating the evidence for local readers.

Thankfully, this reporter and this paper chose #3.

Why This Matters:

The story quotes the mother of two developmentally disabled children saying: "These people are preying on the fears of parents. We cannot be using these children who are so vulnerable as guinea pigs in a medical experiment."

And it quotes a developmental pediatrician saying "
practitioners promoting untested alternative treatments often appeal to parents by portraying themselves as persecuted rebels."It's always just 'The medical establishment is against us.' "

In such cases, people need to evaluate evidence. This story helps readers do that.

Also see a 2009 Columbia Journalism Review article about press coverage of autism.