HERE I GO, RAILING AGAIN
Reading through Mr. Carlson’s brief post gave me the distinct impression that somehow the meaning of our letter had gotten lost, and that left me in a bit of a quandary. I felt an explanation was in order (even though the letter itself was already pretty clear), but a real explanation needs a little length, something which Mr. Carlson apparently disapproves of. So it would be rude to post a lengthy explanation as a comment at the Chicagoist, but here, on my own blog, I can be as long-winded as I please.
Length of prose is always a delicate matter of balance. Too short, and the message might not be clear. Too long, and some readers might focus on individual trees rather than the forest. Such is the case here. Mr. Carlson stated that we:
accuse Tsouderos of “[straying] from the principles of balance, fairness, and the truth” in her articles, and even hinted that the Trib's deciding to focus on the subject at all was misguided, saying:The articles by Ms. Tsouderos were given front-page treatment, including the latest, which came at a time when every other organ of the press was focused squarely on the recent tragedy in Haiti.
We did not attempt to imply that the Tribune’s exploration of the issue was “misguided.” Had that sentence been read in the context of the complete paragraph from which it was cherry picked, the point becomes obvious. Believing that the OSR story (or non-story depending on one’s opinion) was more important than the tragedy in Haiti is a bit ridiculous, especially when the same paper has yet to devote any appreciable space anywhere in the front section to the latest CDC numbers released in December.
The Tribune is unwilling to acknowledge there is a public health crisis, but they are sure willing to say they know how not to treat the non-crisis. That is not just an editorial bias; it is nonsensical.
Moreover, the Tribune reporters have gone about their work in an intellectually dishonest manner. I spoke to one parent who Ms. Tsouderos interviewed for one of her early stories; that parent felt she had been lied to by a reporter who kept leading her into statements that did not reflect what was truly intended.
And it’s not just parents Ms. Tsouderos misquotes. As was noted in our letter, a distinguished physician and scientist at Harvard, Dr. Martha Herbert, complained about being quoted out of context, resulting a misleading expression of Dr. Herbert's opinions. But accurately quoting Dr. Herbert or any of the other qualified doctors and scientists who are looking into potential treatments does not serve the Tribune’s bias. It’s far easier for them to paint a picture of Dr. Boyd Haley as a snake-oil salesman than it is to acknowledge his extensive qualifications and his solid research.
I generally try to steer clear of discussing specific interventions and protocols we use. I will say that, based on what we have heard and seen, the Lupron protocol and OSR #1 (both of which were the subjects of Tribune smear pieces) may be appropriate treatments in particular circumstances. Each autistic child presents a unique clinical picture. What is right for one is not necessarily right for another. Whether a particular intervention is appropriate for an individual depends on the nature of the problems underlying the autistic symptoms, and should be chosen after a careful weighing of potential benefits against risks.
The Tribune, however, is not interested in the successes of our families, as they do not sell papers as well as sensationalism does. Nor is Ms. Tsouderos interested in the successes parents have had. For it’s far easier to get promoted to science reporter from the entertainment beat if you write a sensational exposé rather than a human interest story about families helping their kids.
It’s all a matter of proportionality. One of the comments left at the Chicagoist illustrates the lack of recognition that the Tribune’s articles are far too choosy in picking their targets. Somebody using the handle “Ward Up,” wrote:
The Rankins are frustrated and that is understandable. However, their frustration should not trump scientific evaluation.
If an autism drug has not been proven in a randomized, prospective trial, then that drug cannot be recommended by the Tribune or by anyone, for that matter. Doing so would be a disservice to families of children with autism.
The Tribune deserves praise for its articles on this subject. We need more light shined on these therapies to separate effective medicine from snake oil.
You know what’s frustrating, Ward? I’m frustrated that the same people – like Ms. Tsouderos, Mr. Carlson, and well … you – are so willing to decry so-called “alternative” therapies, but very few of you seem to have a problem with the all-too-common pediatric practice of prescribing Ritalin, Risperdol or even Prozac to autistic children under the age of five. Those are off-label uses of very dangerous controlled substances, and yet the FDA and AAP seem to condone it. Where is your outrage about that? Where is the Tribune’s exposé on that?
There’s nothing at all wrong about reporting on a controversial issue and newspapers are allowed to have an editorial bias. That all adds to a healthy debate of issues, which was certainly contemplated by the drafters of the First Amendment. Part of the bargain, however, is that the issue needs to be presented fairly, accurately, and completely. The Tribune reneged on its part of the compact between itself and its readers, and that was our complaint.