[National Association of Science Writers]

Reporting Cancer Cures, Part 3

This document is the record of a discussion that took place on the nasw-talk mailing list beginning May 4, 1998. It deals with a number of issues critical to the reporting of science and medical news. Because of the length of this discussion, I've edited it into three separate web documents. This is Part 3. Click here for Part 1 or for Part 2.

Information on joining or participating in the nasw-talk mailing list can be found here.

Bob Finn

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Message From: Ross West
Date: Thu, 07 May 1998 14:59:32 +0100
Subject: Bigger Fish to Fry

I find rather disquieting the lengths to which some posters on this list
have gone to rationalize acts of highly questionable ethics when they come
from journalists/editors/other media folks. Science writers on this list
seem in universal agreement that using "breakthrough" language is an
abomination of the first orde--often ridiculing "cure for cancer" stories
as the most egrigious example of overheated boosterism. But Kolata's
cure-for-cancer story is defended because of a few caveats in the piece,
because it was the editor's fault for placing it on p. 1, because an
important source gave it credit (in a quote now denied), because the rest
of the nation's media are lemmings, because.....

Then, to my amazement, I read that there is a book proposal money trail
leading like so many potential-conflict-of-interest breadcrumbs to Ms.
Kolata. I expected thundering--THUNDERING--declarations of the impropriety
of this action, but defenders and apologists abound. Did we not recently
have a lengthy discussion about the ethics of having a stock interest in a
company about which we write? If I remember correctly the discussion was
not even about having "a sizeable" investment, but was couched in
absoluteist language: as if having a stock, representing one percent of
one's $10,000 mutual fund, possibly notch up a point or two because of a
story one might write (thus hauling in for the writer maybe two or three
bucks--before taxes--merely for the cost of his or her reputation) would be
a cut and dried case. But with Kolata, the"appearance of impropriety"
- --isnt that the term that journalists have used to torpedo or at lease
besmirch the reputations and careers of many a pol?--is of an astoundingly
larger magnitude. Had she made a fast five grand on the pharmaceutical
company whoe stock went through the roof because of her article, many an
eyebrow would have been raised, many a finger would have been wagged; but
when she pops out a well-timed book proposal intended to make her a lot
more money than that, she has defenders. I don't get it.

Remember Joe Klein stating emphatically to the gathered press corps
"I did not write Primary Colors" (a book, you will remember, in which he
pillories politicians for their lying ways). Perhaps both he and Kolata
had bigger fish to fry.

~Ross

Ross West
Science Writer * Office of Communication * 219 Johnson Hall *
University of Oregon * Eugene, Oregon 97403 * Ph: (541) 346-2060 *
FAX: (541) 346-3117 * E-mail: rwest@oregon.uoregon.edu * WWW homepage:
http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~rwest/

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Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Thu, 07 May 1998 15:12:34 -0700
Subject: Re: Gina and her Big Story

>OTOH, if you are absolutely sure the person said the outrageous thing--you
>have it on tape or you were taking careful notes at the time--why call to
>"check the quote"? Why does it matter if the source might have second
>thoughts later? I think this is a writer's call.
> But if you know it's bullshit, and suspect the source does, you're just
misleading the reader. We all say lots of things we don't really believe,
but they're casual and not well thought out. If I'm going to quote an
expert, I want him to focus on what the hell he's telling my readers.

- -- Jon Franklin

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Message From: "Joel N. Shurkin"
Date: Thu, 07 May 1998 15:21:59 -0700
Subject: Re: Bob Cooke to steal Kolata's thunder!

Ho. Ho. Ho.

j
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Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Thu, 07 May 1998 15:23:23 -0700
Subject: Re: Bigger Fish to Fry

I tried to condense the original message, but it doesn't seem to want to be
edited. But look, there are differences of opinion on this list. We did
not vote. There is not a policy. This list gives us a chance to think, to
try on ideas, to play devil's advocate if we wish . . . I think, for
example, whether a newspaper reporter should own stock depends on the
circumstances. You are at the University of Oregon, and are covered by a
state retirement plan -- and a good one, too. Many people on this list are
putting aside pennies in IRAs, and they are investing those pennies in
tax-sheltered stocks. That's not a license to use their power as reporters
to pump up their investments -- a category of act that would probably be
illegal in itself -- but, jeez. She gets what she thinks is a big story

and wants to do a book and that makes her unethical?

I think the issue is much more one of connection and intent. If she
planned the proposal and a specific news story to play into one another,
then that is a serious problem. If she played a story to manipulate the
stock market, I'd like to hear what a prosecutor might say.

But nothing WE say is binding or even necessary correct. Even a thing or
two _I_ say may be slightly incorrect . . .

- -- Jon Franklin

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Message From: John Fleck
Date: Thu, 07 May 1998 16:38:12 -0600
Subject: Re: Gina and her Big Story

Bob Finn wrote:

I remember hearing once that many

> journalists regard any statement made when the source has a drink in his
> hand (i.e. at a social event like a dinner or cocktail party) as off the
> record. Is this a generally accepted convention?
>

This would make writing about paleontologists and geologists more difficult. In
my experience beer in camp after a day in the field is somehow central to the
scientific method.

- --
John Fleck

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Message From: Carol Hart
Date: Thu, 07 May 1998 19:09:08 -0400
Subject: Re: Bigger Fish to Fry

Ross West wrote:
>I find rather disquieting the lengths to which some posters on this list
>have gone to rationalize acts of highly questionable ethics when they come
>from journalists/editors/other media folks. Science writers on this list
>seem in universal agreement that using "breakthrough" language is an
>abomination of the first orde--often ridiculing "cure for cancer" stories
>as the most egrigious example of overheated boosterism. But Kolata's
>cure-for-cancer story is defended because of a few caveats in the piece,
>because it was the editor's fault for placing it on p. 1, because an
>important source gave it credit (in a quote now denied), because the rest
>of the nation's media are lemmings, because.....

Maybe it isn't hypocrisy but simply a matter of holding back from attacks
on a specific person when you are writing to a big, mostly anonymous list.
I also was surprised by the people who thought a few mealy-mouthed caveats
made it all okay. Other people, I would guess, kept their expressions of
disapproval on the mild side simply because of the nastiness of attacking
an individual rather than a just-for-the-sake-of-discussion hypothetical.

Carol
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Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Thu, 07 May 1998 16:09:45 -0700
Subject: Re: Gina and her Big Story

>> journalists regard any statement made when the source has a drink in his
>> hand (i.e. at a social event like a dinner or cocktail party) as off the
>> record. Is this a generally accepted convention?
>> >>This would make writing about paleontologists and geologists more
difficult. In
>my experience beer in camp after a day in the field is somehow central to the
>scientific method.
- -- John Fleck

Yeah, this is true. Archaeologists too, and certain aviation types. This
probably says a lot about how the mores very from field to field. The
reason things are so much more formal in medical science is exactly the
reasons we've been talking about -- money and heartbreak. I've done some
damned interesting archaeology stories, but I've never done one that
changed the stock market or gave a dying patient false hope. Even so, one
usually doesn't quote offhand remarks or statements that one knows is
campfire bragging.

- -- Jon Franklin

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Message From: dlindley@sciserv.org
Date: Thu, 07 May 1998 19:13:00 -0500
Subject: quote-checking


A friend of mine (really!) was doing a story a while back, and sent a
draft to one of her informants mainly because there were a couple of
tricky science bits she wanted to make sure she'd got right.
Predictably, the guy started backing off from certain not very
provocative comments he'd originally made, in order to make them still
less provocative. Not that he denied having said them - he just wanted
to be more boring.

But as if that wasn't enough, he started in on the rest of the story,
and was looking at what other people said, and started muttering about
how he was pretty sure so-and-so at Caltech didn't really mean to say
what he said, and probably what he meant was.... And before you know
it he's rewriting OTHER people's statements! He was the big expert,
after all.

As I'm sure we all know, many scientists, for complex sociocultural

reasons that I could invent if necessary, become pitiful nervous
nellies when they see themselves in print. Which sort of spoils the
idea of trying to get worthwhile quotes.

David Lindley

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Message From: Stephen Hart
Date: Thu, 7 May 1998 16:25:31 -0700
Subject: Re: Gina and her Big Story

>Steve wrote:
>>The writer's purpose should to make the article clear and accurate. If
>>people who should know in unguarded moments are calling this research a
>>potential cure for cancer, readers need to know that, even if on reflection
>>they might like to moderate their tone.
Carol shot back:
>To me that's inconsistent. If you want to make the article clear and
>accurate, you don't quote someone shooting off his/her mouth and saying
>something manifestly wrong, even if you got every bit of the quote down
>correctly. And as others have pointed out already, James Watson is not a
>cancer researcher.

I wasn't very clear in my message. By "people who know," I meant more than
one cancer researcher. If someone had said "cure" and "cancer" in the same
sentence to me, even on tape, I'd tend to immediately discount it. I've
never heard a cancer researcher use the word "cure" in an interview. My
response would be to call someone else and say "So and so said "cure" with
respect to cancer treatment X. What do *you* think?"

I agree completely that a reporter quoting some *one* shooting off his/her
mouth is tantamount to the reporter shooting him/herself in the foot. You
burn a source and mislead your readers.

My point was that whether or not a source likes a quote in print should not
determine what we put in print. I did not mean to say that anything on tape
should go in an article. I'm actually very conservative about what I put in
print, and very shy of any controversy. But if I had a quote on tape that
seemed important, knowledgeable and backed up by other sources or by my own
research, I'd use it without first asking for an OK from the source. I
*always* tell a source at the beginning of an interview that it's for
publication, and that I'm taping. That doesn't always prevent them from
making foolish statements.

>But I don't like "gotcha" reporting.
>- --- Aries

My purpose is not to make my sources look foolish. What would be the point
in that? That said, I think it's my call, as a writer, whether or not to
use a quote.

Steve

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Message From: Joanna Downer
Date: Thu, 7 May 1998 18:35:43 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Re: Bigger Fish to Fry

On Thu, 7 May 1998, Ross West wrote:

> But Kolata's
> cure-for-cancer story is defended because of a few caveats in the piece,
> because it was the editor's fault for placing it on p. 1, because an
> important source gave it credit (in a quote now denied), because the rest
> of the nation's media are lemmings, because.....

Have I been reading the same thread? I haven't jumped in because I'm not
at all familiar with Kolata, the cancer story, the interferon story, or
many of the other things that people are jumping excitedly about and
pointing to with great fervor. Instead I've been taking notes about what
not to do to p*ss off the rest of the pack and fall off the pedestal of
science journalism before I even get on it. I have to say that I've
noticed much more stinging criticism than pats on the head for Kolata,
and Amy Stone's (I think) suggestion that we try to bring her in to
defend herself was one of the only real attempts to think about the fact
that there's another side. Yes, some people mentioned caveats, but I
think those comments were blown out of the water by the rebuttal by people
strongly against the article. And with the announcement of the
book proposal (which was subsequently withdrawn and another awarded to
someone else), the townspeople's torches got ever hotter. So either I'm
overly sensitive, or we've been fairly harsh so far. And not jsut to
Gina but to others appearing in the article.

But I have to add that it's been useful to me. I've gotten alot of info
about what not to do, and how some experienced people think things should
be done. And for that, it's been worth paying attention to the thread.
If everyone was just flaming the story with no constructive information
on how to do it differently, I would think otherwise. But I don't think
anyoen has forgiven her, and I doubt there are many who have posted who
think she did nothing wrong at all. I myself think it sounds fishy, but
I have been holed up in the lab stuffing mouse guts into vials so I'm not
quite up to speed on the outside world. Guess the experience has left me
a little tense.

- --joanna downer

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Message From: Carol Hart
Date: Thu, 07 May 1998 19:56:32 -0400
Subject: Re: Gina and her Big Story

Steve Hart wrote:

>I wasn't very clear in my message. By "people who know," I meant more than
>one cancer researcher. If someone had said "cure" and "cancer" in the same
>sentence to me, even on tape, I'd tend to immediately discount it. I've
>never heard a cancer researcher use the word "cure" in an interview. My
>response would be to call someone else and say "So and so said "cure" with
>respect to cancer treatment X. What do *you* think?"
>

Well, that's perfectly reasonable and makes for a good story. But it isn't
how it was done in the now-notorious story everyone is talking about. Sorry
if I "shot back"--it wasn't *your* foot I was aiming at! :)

Just one little footnote--I got a call last night from an oncologist who is
also involved in drug development in a small biotech company. After we had
talked about a project I'm working on for him, I said, as small talk, "So
how's the drug development business?"--and meant the question to refer to
*his* drug. He said, "OH, that terrible NYT article," and launched into a
fascinating tirade about it. He added something to the stew I didn't know
about--saying that this was a disaster for EntreMed. Their stock would
never go up again unless they really did cure cancer, and so it would be
harder for them to attract good people to work there.

Carol
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Message From: Bob Finn
Date: Thu, 07 May 1998 16:54:23 -0700
Subject: Re: Gina and her Big Story

At 04:38 PM 5/7/98 -0600, John Fleck wrote:
> > >Bob Finn wrote:
> >I remember hearing once that many
>> journalists regard any statement made when the source has a drink in his
>> hand (i.e. at a social event like a dinner or cocktail party) as off the
>> record. Is this a generally accepted convention?
>> > >This would make writing about paleontologists and geologists more
difficult. In
>my experience beer in camp after a day in the field is somehow central to the
>scientific method.
>

Reminds me of my Caltech days. For decades the Geological and Planetary
Science Division had a regular social event every Friday called Beer Hour.
Well one day the administration in its wisdom decreed that it would
henceforth be unacceptable to advertise the availability of alcohol at any
campus event. The next Friday the leaflets on the GPS bulletin boards
advertised "Euphemism Hour."

- --
Bob Finn
finn@nasw.org
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Message From: Jeff Hecht
Date: Thu, 7 May 1998 20:32:28 -0400
Subject: Re: Bigger Fish to Fry

Jon Franklin wrote
> >I tried to condense the original message, but it doesn't seem to want to be
>edited. But look, there are differences of opinion on this list. We did
>not vote. There is not a policy. This list gives us a chance to think, to
>try on ideas, to play devil's advocate if we wish . . .[clipped]
> >I think the issue is much more one of connection and intent. If she
>planned the proposal and a specific news story to play into one another,
>then that is a serious problem. If she played a story to manipulate the
>stock market, I'd like to hear what a prosecutor might say.
> Or to put it in another way, we're trying to have a discussion, not a lynch
mob. The events of the past two days have rained rather hard on Kolata's
parade. Watson has denied his key quote, she had to pull her book proposal,
the rest of the serious press is full of stories damping down what she had
to say. I suspect her boss at the Times raked her over the coals the same
way some of us did here, and may have given her a choice between going
ahead with the book and continuing to work for the Times. But that's
speculation.

What we're doing here that's very useful is to discuss what should be
acceptable conduct in cases like this. Some of us might envy Bob Cooke if
that $1-million advance is correct, but nobody says he's done anything
wrong. He's been patiently working with the scientist, _not_ reporting wild
claims on page 1 stories strategically published just before his book
proposal hit the streets. Maybe the Times story helped push the advance up
a bit, but I'll bet that deal was in the works for a while. On the other
hand, the consensus seems to be that it is not ethical to spice up a story
with some exaggerated quotes, hype a legitimate advance into a dramatic
breakthrough, and hold onto the story until you can drop a big-bucks book
proposal onto publishers' desks claiming that you've broken the medical
story of the century. (I am _not_ saying Kolata did that. I have no
evidence. But I am saying that would be unacceptable conduct.)

By the way, for whatever it's worth, I do not see Gina Kolata listed in the
1997 NASW membership directory.

- -- Jeff Hecht

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Message From: "Joel N. Shurkin"
Date: Thu, 07 May 1998 18:14:18 -0700
Subject: Re: Bigger Fish to Fry

Gina Kolata has never been a member of NASW, even going back to her days at
Science News. Actually, few of the Science Writers at the Times are, Phil to
the contrary.

j
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Message From: praeburn@businessweek.com
Date: Thu, 7 May 1998 15:12:32 -0400
Subject: flash


Reuters reports today that Random House has signed a book
about the life and work of Judah Folkman--with Bob Cooke of
Newsday. The New York Post says the advance was $1 million.

Raeburn

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Message From: Norman Bauman
Date: Thu, 07 May 1998 22:13:41
Subject: Re: Bigger Fish to Fry

AMWA once gave Gina Kolata an award. On the day of the meeting when she was
supposed to receive it, she called in and said she had a cold.

At 06:14 PM 5/7/98 -0700, Joel N. Shurkin wrote:
> >Gina Kolata has never been a member of NASW, even going back to her days at
>Science News. Actually, few of the Science Writers at the Times are, Phil to

>the contrary.

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Message From: Stephen Hart
Date: Thu, 7 May 1998 19:32:57 -0700
Subject: Re: Bigger Fish to Fry

>Message From: Ross West
>I find rather disquieting the lengths to which some posters on this list
>have gone to rationalize acts of highly questionable ethics when they come
>from journalists/editors/other media folks.

I realize you said "some," but still feel compelled to cry "Don't pillory
us all." Some of us have questioned the profit made because of this story.
Perhaps it's only those--and I include myself in this number--who stand a
snowball's chance in hell of chatting over drinks with Nobel Laureates or
getting million-dollar advances. But, in fact, I think the general tone of
the comments has been remarkably balanced.

>Many people on this list are
>putting aside pennies in IRAs, and they are investing those pennies in
>tax-sheltered stocks.
>- -- Jon Franklin

Some of us don't have pennies for stocks. We live from week to week, hoping
to meet the mortgage, tuition payments, car repair costs, etc.

Steve

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Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Thu, 07 May 1998 20:44:50 -0700
Subject: Re: Bigger Fish to Fry

Instead I've been taking notes about what
>not to do to p*ss off the rest of the pack and fall off the pedestal of
>science journalism before I even get on it.

My gosh, I hope not. I have a great respect for my NASW colleagues, and I
think I learn a lot in conversations like these, but let's keep in mind
that our job is to inform, please and generally provide useful and/or
amusing information to our _readers_. If that involves pissing off the
pack, then it does. Most of us are far too busy to stay pissed off very
long and, besides, we figure our turn will come.

I think there's a bit more humor and withheld judgment here than is
instantly apparent.

- -- Jon Franklin
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Message From: "Michael Kenward (E-mail)"
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 10:45:17 +0100
Subject: RE: Kolata, cancer, and cocktails

> reporter needs to be even more careful. And if the reporter
> had a drink in
> his/her own hand at the time, he/she needs to be still more careful.

Having seen Watson in action sober, albeit jet lagged, preposterosity (sic)
would seem to be the norm.

MK

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Message From: carol morton
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 08:33:14 -0500
Subject: brockman in today's globe

Today's Boston Globe adds new information from Brockman (see
http://www.boston.com for the full story):

..." Kolata's story did create a serious fuss in the publishing community.
Her literary agent, John Brockman, said he read the May 3 story and called
her immediately, suggesting that the article made a great book opportunity.
''Get two pages [of a book outline] to me by 10 tonight and I'll get $2
million to you by the end of the week,'' he said he told her. Brockman said
he e-mailed the outline to publishing houses and there was an offer the
next morning.

"Brockman said he removed the offer from the table when he and Kolata
began fielding reporters' questions and she asked that it be withdrawn.
Nielsen said the Times opposes staffers writing books on ''a set of
developments that he or she is currently covering. After discussing this
situation with her editor, [Kolata] withdrew the proposal.'' In the
meantime, Random House announced yesterday that it had reached a deal for a
book about Folkman's work to be written by Newsday science reporter Bob
Cooke.

"By the time any book on this subject hits the shelves, science may have
provided more information on the new therapies. But for now, the media
coverage itself has proved to be a potent drug for an eager public.

''In this case, it's a combination of all forms of the media being so
competitive today, so concerned to be first, along with a huge number of
people who are absolutely desperate, whose lives are up against the wall,''
said Johnson. ''That's a volatile combination.''

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Message From: Billy Goodman
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 10:04:45 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Kolata and NYT cancer story

See today's (5/8) New York Times, National Section, for a story by
Felicity Barringer about Kolata's book deal and one by Robert Cooke.

One aspect of the original story I feel was lacking was any discussion of

the financial stake of the scientists involved. I'd like to know, for
example, if Watson has a financial interest in Entremed or another company
that stands to gain from these drugs.

Billy Goodman

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Message From: Richard Harris
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 10:26:13 -0400
Subject: Kolata and NASW

I ran into Gina Kolata at the AAAS in Philadelphia and gently asked her if
she'd like to join NASW. She told me she had been a member but dropped out
after ScienceWriters carried a critical report about one of her (previous)
controversies. Howard Lewis, perhaps you could provide us with a citation...

Richard Harris
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Message From: John Gever
Date: Fri, 08 May 1998 10:38:25 -0700
Subject: Re: Gina and her Big Story

At 07:56 PM 5/7/98 -0400, Carol Hart wrote:
>He added something to the stew I didn't know
>about--saying that this was a disaster for EntreMed. Their stock would
>never go up again unless they really did cure cancer, and so it would be
>harder for them to attract good people to work there.

This is absolutely true. So often you see instances of stocks going up on
some rumor and the corporate officers' tears are so obviously crocodilian,
you want to call Dade County Animal Control. But in this case, it really is
a catastrophe for the company, which can never live up to the expectations
generated by the NYT story. Whatever payday the Entremed managers might
have been looking forward to based on their stock ownership, unless they
managed to sell this week, has probably vanished forever. The company's
name will live in infamy for years, through no fault of its own.

- -john gever

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Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Fri, 08 May 1998 08:20:11 -0700
Subject: Re: brockman in today's globe

> "By the time any book on this subject hits the shelves, science may have
>provided more information on the new therapies. But for now, the media
>coverage itself has proved to be a potent drug for an eager public.

No way. The most powerful effect of the drug was on best-seller hungry
publishers.

- -- Jon Franklin
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Message From: Shannon Brownlee
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 11:45:48 -0400
Subject: Re: Bigger Fish to Fry

At 10:42 PM 5/7/98 -0400, Steve wrote: Some of us have questioned the profit
made because of this story.
>Perhaps it's only those--and I include myself in this number--who stand a
>snowball's chance in hell of chatting over drinks with Nobel Laureates or
>getting million-dollar advances.

Bob Cooke, the reporter who got the big advance, is just a regular fella,
who works hard, reports the dickens out of his stories and probably won't
know what the heck he should do with the money--though I suspect he will buy
a pretty little sports car.

Shannon

>

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Message From: Shannon Brownlee
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 11:54:22 -0400
Subject: Re: brockman in today's globe

At 11:25 AM 5/8/98 -0400, you wrote:
>> "By the time any book on this subject hits the shelves, science may have
>>provided more information on the new therapies. But for now, the media
>>coverage itself has proved to be a potent drug for an eager public.
> >No way. The most powerful effect of the drug was on best-seller hungry
>publishers.
> >-- Jon Franklin

Yup. The only saving grace is that Bob Cooke will write an accurate,
balanced book that doesn't fan the hype.

Shannon

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Message From: "Joel N. Shurkin"
Date: Fri, 08 May 1998 09:38:40 -0700
Subject: Re: brockman in today's globe

The irony may have been that Kolata's story greatly increased the value of
Bob's proposal, which we must assume had been circulating long before the
story. Brockman works that way, incidentally, the reason he is very unpopular
with publishers and very popular with writers (except for those who wind up
having to give their large advances back). In all, everyone got what they
deserved. Especially Bob.

j
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Message From: "Shauna S. Roberts"
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 11:40:33 +0100
Subject: Re: Kolata, cancer, and cocktails

> reporter needs to be even more careful. And if the reporter had a drink in
> his/her own hand at the time, he/she needs to be still more careful.

And no one has even mentioned the sexual dynamics here. Not only was this a
social situation, but it was a man talking to an attractive younger woman.

I'm curious why Gina took anything Dr. Watson said to her at a party as
more than peacock-strutting, things he never would have said chatting to
another man or to her in a formal interview.

Shauna Roberts

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Message From: Robert Lee Hotz
Date: Fri, 08 May 1998 09:57:29 -0700
Subject: Re: brockman in today's globe

At 09:38 AM 05/08/1998 -0700, you wrote:
>In all, everyone got what they
>deserved.
> > To conclude this thread, I wonder if the group would distill the lessons
learned here. Are there any? Is there the raw material of guidelines here.
If so, what might they be?

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Message From: "Joel N. Shurkin"
Date: Fri, 08 May 1998 10:18:58 -0700
Subject: Re: brockman in today's globe

Good question, and one I've been thinking about. One proposal is there are
different standards for different stories. If I write a story about the Big
Bang, I know that: A) No one will really know if the theory in the story is
correct, and B) Except for the people involved in the theories, no one really
cares. It won't change anyone's life. If I write a story about the invention
of a new computer chip, it might affect lives or finances, but nothing
cosmic. If I write a story about a possible cure for cancer, there will be a
right or wrong, it will affect lives and the mere producing the story will
create emotions and hope and the real danger people will be seriously hurt.
That puts an extra burden on the writer and the editor and the scientist.

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "Stew"
Date: Thu, 7 May 1998 04:37:02 -0400
Subject: Re: place your bets/zoology

Hi guys,

I stand corrected on the circulatory systems of "worms". I should have been
more specific, and about "active transport" that was a misuse of the term.
But let's return to worms: My understanding about worms, even those with
circulatory systems, is that they are still diffusion limited in their
growth potential. They are limited by oxygen as they have no lungs. Perhaps?

There was a comment about the interstitial fluids still circulating as the
animal moves. This is true, but there is a boundary layer at the surface of
the cell that does not move. Across this boundary layer concentration
gradients form as the cell adsorbs nutrients. The interstitial circulation
can replenish the concentration of nutrients at the outer limits of the
boundary This would maximize the rate of diffusion. Nonetheless it is a
diffusion process.

It was mentioned that passive diffusion does not require energy. Actually it
does in cellular systems - all diffusion systems really. The diffusion of
nutrients is a directed transport and this requires the input of energy. It
is more of a systemic problem than a cellular one. The passive diffusion of
nutrients derives its energy from the chemical potential difference that is
created by the concentration gradients and the different media -
interstitial fluids, membrane and cytoplasm. In order to maintain the
diffusion processes the chemical potential differences have to be supported
by transporting nutrients to boundary layers. This is accomplished by the
circulatory system, axoplasmic flow, or movement depending on where the
nutrients are required. It all takes energy to transport the nutrients about
the body. The heart has to pump, the synaptic regions have to create
junction "noise", and the body needs to move. My point is, it takes energy
to maintain the chemical potential gradients. The diffusion may be passive,
but the overall process is energy intensive.

Of course, as was pointed out, the physical limits of a tumor cell without
angiogenesis is dependent on the nutrient pool and metabolic rate of the
tumor. The basal metabolic rate is of little concern because the cell would
not be dividing and would pose no metastatic threat. It's a non-starter
(unless we can think of a way to deprive cancer cells of the energy required
for basal matabolism). An actively reproducing cell population with poor
intercellular adhesions is probably the most effective killer and of greater
concern and interest. As was pointed out, cells with high metabolic rates
must be smaller than the cells in a lower rate because of the diffusion
limitations. Small cells get around easier than big cells . Assume that the
most aggressive cells can reproduce within the limits of the interstitial
nutrient pool then release rogue cells before the rate of growth exceeds the
rate of nutrient supply. The rogue cells, if their numbers are high enough,
appear in new interstitial sites that are compatible with their surface
chemistry and the rogues "set up shop". Repeat this step a few times and

the body will soon be supplying the cancer cells with energy, electrolytes,
and minerals at great expense. Not only will the healthy tissue be starved,
the body will burn itself out feeding the cancer. We die when the demand
for energy exceeds the physical limits of the supply after a prolonged
period.

I doubt that the angiogenic treatments are the "silver bullets" but they
certainly will work to some degree because they exert control over the
supply of energy to the tumor. It is interesting to note that one of the
side effects of radiation therapy is to damage the blood supply in the
irradiated region. Not only is the tumor killed by the ionizing radiation,
but the region becomes a less effective nutrient pool for growth - an added
bonus if it is not too severe.

Have you ever wondered if the silver bullet solution can be found? The
definition of cancer is so general that a common factor or constellation of
factors can not be defined in such a way as to attack all cancers. So I
don't think it exists. The aggressive, metastatic cancers do have one thing
in common: They need energy - and lots of it. It is what defines them. Is it
possible to inhibit the transport of key nutrients selectively at the
cellular level? Or, a little more daring, is it possible to pump-up the
cancer cell so much that it depletes the interstitial pool and, well, eats
itself to death before placing a prolonged demand on the body. In other
words, kill the cancer with the same techniques it kills us. Make it consume
beyond the physical limits of its environment. Maybe? I'm curious whether
this works in mice. God knows they get a lot of cancer.

.Stewart

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "Michael Kenward (E-mail)"
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 16:55:47 +0100
Subject: Stock prices (was RE: Gina and her Big Story)

>-----Bit of Original Message-----
>you want to call Dade County Animal Control. But in this
>case, it really is
>a catastrophe for the company, which can never live up to the
>expectations
>generated by the NYT story. Whatever payday the Entremed
>managers might
>have been looking forward to based on their stock ownership,
>unless they
>managed to sell this week, has probably vanished forever. The
>company's
>name will live in infamy for years, through no fault of its own.
>

Sadly, the investment community has a very short memory. I have seen a
number of companies go through this cycle more than once. They will go up
and down reguarly. To pick just two locals, try British Biotech (which also
has a "cancer cure" in phaseIII trials in the USA and Europe) and
Biocompatibles Inc.

Analysts have a supposedly scientific way of calculating the value of a
stock. A spreadsheet even. It is based on the ultimate market for products
in the pipeline, and how much money, and how long, it will take to get them
there. Of course, the certainty of those calculations, what physicists call
the errors bars, diminish as the product makes the transition from phase I
to phase III clinical trials. This one is in phase -II.

MK

**************************************************************************
----------------------------------------------------------------------

Message From: Joanna Downer
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 12:36:56 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Deep thoughts re hullabaloo.

Robert Lee Hotz wrote:

> To conclude this thread, I wonder if the group would distill the lessons
> learned here. Are there any? Is there the raw material of guidelines here.
> If so, what might they be?

Well, here a a few of my "keepers' from this hub-bub. 1) Treat subjects of
life and death importance to potential readers with extra care in
accuracy and possible innuendo. 2) Provide caveats as strong as (or
stronger than, if that's the way it is) the new possibilities. 3) If
uncertain about a source's quote (whether meaning, realization it would
appear in print, context, etc, etc, etc.) do a call back -- it's easy and
sometimes gives an even better quote that you don't have to worry about
at all. 4) Work hard to report stories well -- not only does it make it
stronger, but it also could provide fodder for a book about the big
picture. 5) Make sure things come in an order that doesn't have the
appearance of conflict of interest -- though all this book writing when
on staff confuses me -- do you take a leave and write a proposal or wait
to have the proposal accepted before you take a leave, or none of the
above?

And the next 5: 6) Pray your editors don't put a feature story on the
front page, making it look like news when it isn't. 7) Pray they recognize
your science article that really is news and put IT on the front page.
8) Have a thick skin for all those things that people will be saying
about you no matter what you do or how you do it, even if you never
actually hear it. 9) Avoid the words "breakthrough" and "cure", know
what the measures actually mean and how (and when) the results will
affect readers. 10) Turn in the story and run like hell for cover!!!

So, here are mine, what do you guys think?

- --joanna downer
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Shannon Brownlee
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 13:44:43 -0400
Subject: Re: Clone Book

This is a comment in response to Robert's comment--see the National Journal
last month for a very interesting discussion about Clone the book and the
article that preceded it.

Shannon

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: akeck@aaas.org (AKECK)
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 13:53:51 -0400
Subject: Re: Kolata, cancer, and cocktails

WHOA! Wait a minute here!

Shauna Roberts said:
>And no one has even mentioned the sexual dynamics here. Not only was this a
>social situation, but it was a man talking to an attractive younger woman.
>I'm curious why Gina took anything Dr. Watson said to her at a party as
>more than peacock-strutting, things he never would have said chatting to
>another man or to her in a formal interview.

[deep breath] Ok, I do believe that if a source gives you a particularly
incendiary quote - comparing someone to Darwin, for example - you should call
them back tell them you're using the quote (because they said it and that's
that), but ask them is they have some clarification on their feelings about the
matter.

That being said: In NO way should Kolata disregard statements one scientist said
about another scientist because she's cute. Watson's letter shows that he stands
behind his peacock-strutting. Many men (or unattractive, older women for that
matter) would say that Watson has a tendency to act "cock-of-the-walk" no matter
whom he talks to.

Reporters are reporters are reporters. All of us use everything we've got to get
a good story. Once a male science writer friend complained that I got more
attention at meetings because I'm young, female, and blonde. I would gladly
trade in my "bobbie sox" looks for respect in my field anyday. But I'd like to
think one doesn't exclude the other.

I'll readily admit that I've played to egos at times to get stories. But I've
also played dumb too. What counts is the story. Watson's no media virgin. He
knows to watch his words, or pay the consequences.

- ---- Aries Keck

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Deborah Ausman
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 13:52:33 -0600
Subject: Re:Cancer cures and $$$

>So maybe we should all rate the topics we write about along an urgency
>gradient and be especially careful in doing those that can cause anguish or
>pain to vulernable people.

I've missed a lot of this link (was on the road and just didn't have the
time to read the 150 messages that hit my box after just one day away from
my office), but what I've seen of the debate has been intelligent and

balanced, the usual for this group.

In summing up, however, the comment above makes me a bit queasy. . .
particularly the "vulnerable" people. I would never deign to call myself a
journalist (someday, perhaps, but not yet), but it would seem it's not the
journalist's job to be on the watch for sensitive or vulnerable readers.
There are always going to be people who misunderstand, misread, assume, or
simply don't have the education/time/whatever to understand. . . these
people are "vulnerable," but that doesn't mean we should always write to
their level, does it?

How would we define this urgency gradient? Would it be a quantity matter or
a quality issue? Such a definition seems to go way beyond knowing your
audience. I'd like to see people be more empathetic, but am not sure how
easily it can be achieved, particularly when there are bills to pay.

Deborah Ausman
Principia Communications
auswoman@ix.netcom.com

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Deborah Ausman
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 13:55:20 -0600
Subject: Re: Deep thoughts re hullabaloo.

>So, here are mine, what do you guys think?
> The list is good.

These are wonderful take away points. . . good lessons for any writer in
general, in fact.

------------------------------

Message From: "Joel N. Shurkin"
Date: Fri, 08 May 1998 12:04:33 -0700
Subject: Re: Deep thoughts re hullabaloo.

Out of curiosity: is this stuff ever discussed in science writing programs?

j

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Fri, 08 May 1998 12:26:06 -0700
Subject: Re: brockman in today's globe

Be the one who ends up with the million dollar book contract! -- Jon Franklin
>> >To conclude this thread, I wonder if the group would distill the lessons
>learned here. Are there any? Is there the raw material of guidelines here.
>If so, what might they be?
> **************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Fri, 08 May 1998 12:26:04 -0700
Subject: Re: Kolata, cancer, and cocktails

Now . . . now . . . waitaminnit here! Are you saying us old farts
peacock-strut around attractive younger women? And exaggerate? And
bluster? That's an outrage and an open slander on old farts of all ilks!
Ilk. Whatever. I am wounded to the core!

- -- Jon Franklin

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "ARNOLD, KATHERINE MARIE "
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 14:45:35 -0500
Subject: Re: Deep thoughts re hullabaloo.

On Fri, 8 May 1998, Joel N. Shurkin wrote:

> Out of curiosity: is this stuff ever discussed in science writing programs?
>
> j
>
Joel,
Yes, to a certain extent. We have a media law class that touches on some
of these issues, but really these issues come out more in mass media
research classes and our science reporting classes -- things like verifying
quotes with sources if you're unsure, avoiding conflict of interest
situations, being straight-forward in your reporting (not raising false
hopes), including trends and past research, but most importantly, just
plain ol' common sense. A science journalist who guest lectured here once
told us that science journalists were in the business of information, not
education. While I'm not yet ready to believe that, the information that
is provided should be thorough, comprehensive, timely, and CORRECT
(that's that common sense part).

Katherine Arnold
Science & Technology Journalism master's student
Texas A&M; University
College Station, Texas (home of the dead SSC and the veggie libel law)

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "Joel N. Shurkin"
Date: Fri, 08 May 1998 13:01:14 -0700
Subject: Re: Deep thoughts re hullabaloo.

I can imagine someone doing a week just on the issues raised by this story
and the subsequent book proposal. You don't get much meatier than this.

j

**************************************************************************

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Message From: "Stew"
Date: Thu, 7 May 1998 08:05:58 -0400
Subject: Re: Deep thoughts re hullabaloo.

Might want to add:

When someone predicts the future, no matter how well informed, should I
believe?
If Jo-Jo Savard, renowned psychic & soothsayer, reported that cancer would
be cured in two years, would you believe?
Somehow, when a scientist predicts a cure for cancer, we believe we believe.
And, they have no psychic training. Caveat emptor when purchasing the
future. The problem for the article, for me, was the prediction of the
future. Without that, the story was really quite ordinary. They, the
soothsayers, are quite fortunate that these are not the times of St. John
the Baptist.

The Queen of Hearts would have a field-day: "Off with their heads!"

Another funny thing: Why do some people like to predict the future in a time
frame that coincides with their lives or their careers? Why not predict the
future fifty to 100 years from now? This way, the soothsayer would either
be too wise to care, or dead.

Stewart

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Lee Siegel
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 14:57:38 -0600
Subject: Cancer baloney

Hotz wrote:
To conclude this thread, I wonder if the group would distill the lessons
learned here. Are there any?

How about this?
The next time the NY Times puts hyped-up bullshit on page 1 the rest
of the news media should ignore it instead of acting like Pavlovian dogs,
lemmings or whatever and going into the usual feeding frenzy. (This goes
triple for my former employers at AP, whose NY General Desk takes anything
the NY Times says as if it is the word of God.)

Lee Siegel, science editor
The Salt Lake Tribune
143 South Main Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84111
lsiegel@sltrib.com
work (801) 237-2045
fax (801) 521-9418

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Joanna Downer
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 16:20:27 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Re: Cancer baloney

Lee Siegel wrote:

> The next time the NY Times puts hyped-up bullshit on page 1 the rest
> of the news media should ignore it instead of acting like Pavlovian dogs,
> lemmings or whatever and going into the usual feeding frenzy. (This goes
> triple for my former employers at AP, whose NY General Desk takes anything
> the NY Times says as if it is the word of God.)

I think this one message has put all the threads of the last two weeks
together!! If only it talked about the circulatory systems of worms.... ;)

- --joanna downer
**************************************************************************

-----------------------------

Message From: "Shauna S. Roberts"
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 17:55:42 +0100
Subject: Re: Kolata, cancer, and cocktails

Aries Keck said:

>Watson's no media virgin. He
>knows to watch his words, or pay the consequences.

Granted, he should have been more on his guard. But.....people react to the
clues they are given. If you wear a serious expression, have a pen and
notebook in your hand, and ask a thoughtful question, all the clues say
you're having an interview, and the interviewee knows to respond in kind.

If instead you're wearing party clothes and laughing and having what seems
to be a superficial conversation, all the clues say that you're not having
an interview. Even a man as experienced with the media as James Watson is
can be excused for thinking he was having a casual chat, I think.

If in addition, you are talking to a person of the opposite sex, you've got
additional tools to make the conversation feel less businesslike and more
personal and so are more likely to get an unguarded comment. But unlike
you, Aries (If I understood you correctly), I think comments made in these
circumstances are not always reliable. Push a person's buttons and get them
interacting man to woman instead of businesslike neuter to neuter, and what
do you have? Jokes, double and triple entendres, flights of fancy,
boasting, compliments, general silliness. It's language bulging with
metaphor and symbolism and light on fact and reality.

I don't know what happened at this particular party. I knew Gina only
briefly years ago, and I've never met Dr. Watson at all, so I can't make
any guesses based on personal knowledge of the people. It just sends alarm
bells ringing in my head when I hear that a person was quoted on something
they happened to say at a party, particularly in a man-woman conversation,
since it's so easy to get someone to say completely outrageous and
ridiculous things in those circumstances.

If I haven't convinced you, then I have a question. If party banter is fair

game for quoting, doesn't that mean no writer is ever off duty? And that no
one can ever trust us enough to have a casual conversation in which they
don't watch every word? That makes the world a pretty lonely place for
writers.

Shauna Roberts

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "Shauna S. Roberts"
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 18:09:18 +0100
Subject: Re: Kolata, cancer, and cocktails

Jon Franklin said:

>Now . . . now . . . waitaminnit here! Are you saying us old farts
>peacock-strut around attractive younger women? And exaggerate? And
>bluster?

Thanks for filling in the details, Jon! If I had been this explicit, some
of the guys might have been upset.

>That's an outrage and an open slander on old farts of all ilks!
>Ilk. Whatever. I am wounded to the core!

Now, now--if women didn't think this behavior was cute and endearing, there
wouldn't be such an overpopulation problem, would there?

Shauna roberts

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "Joel N. Shurkin"
Date: Fri, 08 May 1998 16:50:58 -0700
Subject: Re: Kolata, cancer, and cocktails

And we old farts would be a lot lonelier than we are.

j
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Blbink
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 20:29:08 EDT
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

Deborah Ausman admitted she hadn't read the whole thread, but wrote:

>In summing up, however, the comment above makes me a bit queasy. . .
>particularly the "vulnerable" people. I would never deign to call myself a
>journalist (someday, perhaps, but not yet), but it would seem it's not the
>journalist's job to be on the watch for sensitive or vulnerable readers.
>There are always going to be people who misunderstand, misread, assume, or
>simply don't have the education/time/whatever to understand. . . these
>people are "vulnerable," but that doesn't mean we should always write to
>their level, does it?

If indeed we are serving our readers and not our own careers or egos, then it
certainly is every writer's job to be aware of the effect our writing has on
our readers. (Indeed, if we're not, I don't think we can claim to be really
in control of our craft.) I wasn't talking about people who are careless or
ignorant or lazy, I was talking about terminal cancer patients and those who
love them. I know that Kolata's story caused dashed hopes to people I know
personally. It used to be said that a gentleman never insulted anyone
unintentionally. I think the same care for the predictable effect of our
words should be everyone's responsibility.

Beryl Benderly
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Mlemonick
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 21:17:18 EDT
Subject: Re: Cancer baloney

In a message dated 5/8/98 9:02:47 PM, you wrote:

>How about this?
> The next time the NY Times puts hyped-up bullshit on page 1 the rest
>of the news media should ignore it instead of acting like Pavlovian dogs,
>lemmings or whatever and going into the usual feeding frenzy. (This goes
>triple for my former employers at AP, whose NY General Desk takes anything
>the NY Times says as if it is the word of God.)

Amen
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Fri, 08 May 1998 18:35:20 -0700
Subject: Re: Cancer baloney

Re AP, I always thought it was the other way around. The editor says, "AP
has story X, why the hell don't YOU have story X?" Maybe it's just because
I have always lived far from New York City.

- -- Jon Franklin

------------------------------

Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Fri, 08 May 1998 19:36:00 -0700
Subject: Re: Bigger Fish to Fry

Well, given the business practices of the publishing industry, getting a
contract is one thing and extracting that money is quite another. I'll bet
it's paid out in tiny little dribbles and drabs.

When I was new to the business I once got what to me, then, was a huge
check for movie rights on a book I'd written. I was waving the check
around and a cooler head pointed out that what I had so far was merely a
piece of paper with some Hollywood name on it, and and iffen it was _him_
whose check that was he would already be standing in the deposit line.
"You haven't been paid," he said, "until the check clears."

A man of infinite wisdom, he.

- -- Jon Franklin

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Sciwriters

Date: Sat, 9 May 1998 12:48:08 EDT
Subject: Re: Kolata and NASW

In a message dated 98-05-08 10:31:35 EDT, Richard Harris wrote --

>I ran into Gina Kolata at the AAAS in Philadelphia and gently asked her if
>she'd like to join NASW. She told me she had been a member but dropped out
>after ScienceWriters carried a critical report about one of her (previous)
>controversies. Howard Lewis, perhaps you could provide us with a citation...

Gina has had a lot of ink in SW. During the period when she worked on Science,
she was an active contributor to and supporter of ScienceWriters. Her book
review of "Bridges to Infinity" appeared in the November 1984 issue, an open
memorandum to Stephen Jay Gould in December 1985; and an article on public-
information policy in HHS was in the March 1986 issue. Then Gina began to work
on the Times and began to make news on her own. An AIDS advocacy group
publicly excoriated her for an article on the disease, which Victor McElheny
covered for ScienceWriters in its Summer 1990 issue. Finally, I wrote a kind
of flippant report on the dogged efforts of a Princeton mathematician to get
the Times to admit that Kolata had made five serious errors in an article she
had written on the "Traveling Salesman Problem," which has (had?) fascinated
mathematicians for years. I guess that was the last straw for her and she left
NASW.

The open memorandum to Gould, incidentally, defended two New York Times
editorials on mass extinctions. to which Gould had objected on the basis that
the matter was much too complex to be written about in a newspaper editorial.
It was timely then, and is even more timely now, with Gould coming in as
president of AAAS.

howard
**************************************************************************

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Message From: Jeff Hecht
Date: Sat, 9 May 1998 14:59:56 -0400
Subject: Re: Conclusions on the cancer 'cure' flap

Lee Siegel wrote:
> How about this?
> The next time the NY Times puts hyped-up bullshit on page 1 the rest
>of the news media should ignore it instead of acting like Pavlovian dogs,
>lemmings or whatever and going into the usual feeding frenzy.

By and large I agree, but I think that the only way to make this point to
editors at large may be a long and public dissection of a major NY Times
page 1 blunder. We've seen some of that in the past week.
- -- Jeff Hecht

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Deborah Ausman
Date: Sat, 9 May 1998 14:12:19 -0600
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

>Deborah Ausman admitted she hadn't read the whole thread, but wrote:

>If indeed we are serving our readers and not our own careers or egos, then it
>certainly is every writer's job to be aware of the effect our writing has on
>our readers. (Indeed, if we're not, I don't think we can claim to be really
>in control of our craft.) I wasn't talking about people who are careless or
>ignorant or lazy, I was talking about terminal cancer patients and those who
>love them. I know that Kolata's story caused dashed hopes to people I know
>personally. It used to be said that a gentleman never insulted anyone
>unintentionally. I think the same care for the predictable effect of our
>words should be everyone's responsibility.

Nicely put and I second this. . . I was looking mainly for a clarification
of the word vulnerable. It was interesting to hear the response about
whether these issues get taught in science writing courses. As you say,
much of this issue seems a question of courtesy and ethics. . . thinking
about what you write, how it might be interpreted/misinterpreted, how
placing the story on page 1 will change the way it is perceived. Sure would
be nice if this were something you could teach, huh?

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: lsiegel@sltrib.com (Lee Siegel)
Date: Sat, 09 May 1998 14:22:32 -0600
Subject: NYC, source of knowledge, center of the universe

Franklin wrote:
Re AP, I always thought it was the other way around. The editor
says, "AP
has story X, why the hell don't YOU have story X?" Maybe it's just because
I have always lived far from New York City.

Jon,
I'm sure that happens a lot. But during my 11 years in the LA AP
bureau, there were numerous times we would send an original story to the
General Desk in NY and they'd ignore it and not use it on the national wire.
Then, two weeks later, the NY Times would run their version of the same
story (they had seen our version on the California state wire). Then, some
AP editor in NY would call the LA bureau screaming "Why don't we have the
story?" It was always delightful to hear my boss tell them, "Well, we had it
two weeks ago and you passed it -- until you saw the NY Times do the story."
Of course, then we'd have to recycle and rewrite our two-week-old story to
"match" the NY Times.
The other variation on this was when the General Desk would pass one
of our stories, so it would run only on the California state wire, then the
NY Times would grab the state wire version and publish it -- even though the
AP gurus in NY didn't think it was worth running on the national wire. I
particularly enjoyed when the NY Times would run a longer, state-wire
version of one of my science stories after some science-allergic editor at
AP/NY had hacked it into a brief for the national wire.
Getting back to your message, I spent my early AP career eating my
heart out at scientific meetings worrying about what the NYT or LA Times
were covering. After a few years, I mellowed out (relatively speaking) and
realized AP was the damn 800-pound gorilla and if I decided to do a story,
newspape editors would be screaming at their reporters, "AP has story X, why
the hell don't YOU have story X?"

Lee Siegel

- ---------------------

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Sat, 09 May 1998 16:09:34 -0700
Subject: Re: NYC, source of knowledge, center of the universe

> Getting back to your message, I spent my early AP career eating my
>heart out at scientific meetings worrying about what the NYT or LA Times
>were covering. After a few years, I mellowed out (relatively speaking) and
>realized AP was the damn 800-pound gorilla and if I decided to do a story,
>newspape editors would be screaming at their reporters, "AP has story X, why

>the hell don't YOU have story X?"
> >Lee Siegel
> So, of course, what I told them was that, gee, you're lucky. If I'da done
story X, you'd have two story Xes, whereas now you have a story X and a
story Y!

- -- Jon
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "Joel N. Shurkin"
Date: Sun, 10 May 1998 15:17:37 -0700
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

When I was a lad (my God, he's going to break out in song!)...as a
journalist, I was taught and firmly believed that our obligation was to
write the best we could and damn the results. Not our problem. The goal was
to get information out there and let people operating in a democracy make up
their own minds. I'm now convinced that's sometimes wrong, that we do have
some responsibility for what we write and don't write. We do have to give
some thought to the readers of our copy and see if we are doing harm. I
don't mean worry about giving offense, that's part of the job and if someone
is offended, normally tough doodie. But that doesn't excuse giving false
hope to dying people, or those who love them. It doesn't excuse writing
about private matters of other people just because we know them. It doesn't
excuse writing about things that interfere with justice. There are, I
suggest, few times when this kind of thing should be a worry, but they are
real and we can't be oblivious to them.

I refer to another song, by Tom Lehrer, about Werhner von Braun, the amoral
German rocket scientist who didn't care what happened to the rockets he
designed as long as someone let him design rockets.: "The rocket goes up,
who cares were it comes down. It's not my department, says Wehrner von
Braun." To which, Bob Hope once remarked, "but sometimes it hits London."
Nothing we do is that catastrophic, but we do bear some responsibility for
what we write. I think sometimes it is our department. I was taught wrong.

j

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Sun, 10 May 1998 15:44:25 -0700
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

I agree wholeheartedly with Joel. Especially in these hysterical times,
we are dealing in the informational equivalents of the good doctor's
rockets. There are a lot otherwise well educated people out there who
are terribly ignorant of science, and who will predictably distort
certain kinds of stories. This doesn't only include cancer cure stories
but cancer scare stories as well. And we belong to a generation of
science writers who made their bones (and their livings) scaring the
bejesus out of people. That, and wasting their time on the Bermuda
Triangle, Nessie and the killer bees.

Remember herpes, anyone?

Which, as long as we're waxing poetic, reminds me of Teddy Roosevelt's
comment about the Spanish American War. It wasn't much of a war, he
said, but it was the only war he had. The same can be said for a lot of
terror we've spread, from sacharine to agent orange and alar: It wasn't
very terrible, but it was the only terror we had handy.

I was taught exactly what Joel was taught, and I was taught wrong.

- -- Jon Franklin

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "Michael Kenward (E-mail)"
Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 09:43:21 +0100
Subject: RE: Cancer cures

Before you all beat yourselves to death with self doubt, look around you at
the state of American journalism.

You are just caught in the same pig sty. I say this not because I have any
knowledge, buy because I have just been reading an article written by an
American journalist in The Guardian's media section. It starts with the sage
of the live suicide and then goes into how he, as a reporter, ended up doing
interminable celebrity crime and divorce stories. He cites the case of being
woken at midnight to be told that his editor was worried about his account
of a particular interview. It was at odds with another interview with the
same person that said the exact opposite from his story. His point was that
he could not believe that the editor had even bothered to ring him to
compare his version with that in....The National Inquirer.

No, I am not fingering the American press. Our own media are not much
better. After all, we allowed the dreaded Murdoch to make his first big
money.

Science writers cannot redefine the environment within which they work. Just
be thankful that you don't get sucked into too many of those nastier
stories.

MK
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: John Gever
Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 11:19:47 -0700
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

At 03:17 PM 5/10/98 -0700, Joel N. Shurkin wrote:
>When I was a lad (my God, he's going to break out in song!)...as a
>journalist, I was taught and firmly believed that our obligation was to
>write the best we could and damn the results. Not our problem. The goal was
>to get information out there and let people operating in a democracy make up
>their own minds. I'm now convinced that's sometimes wrong, that we do have
>some responsibility for what we write and don't write. We do have to give
>some thought to the readers of our copy and see if we are doing harm.

I don't think you were taught wrong at all. Where you may have been
confused was in seeing a contradiction between "writing the best we could"
and "giving thought to the readers."

The problem with the Old School was its attitude that if you quoted your
sources accurately, your obligation was fully discharged. Never mind if the
sources were full of s**t. The better approach (which you and Jon now
embrace) is to think about whether the story as a whole is true in a larger
sense, and what will the consequences be if it isn't. "Writing the best you
can" certainly encompasses that attitude. On the flip side, I can think of
very few instances where reporting the truth would have such negative
consequences that it would better to kill the story (troop movements in war
and things like that).

I think you can thank the Warren Court in NYT vs. Sullivan for much of this
change in attitude. The actual malice standard -- knowledge of falsity or
reckless disregard for whether it's true or not -- sets out with brilliant
clarity that you can't just hide behind your sources' skirts. You have to
be reasonably sure that what they are telling you is really true and to
consider the effects of being wrong. It may be the greatest thing to happen
to journalism since moveable type.

- -john gever

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Stephen Hart
Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 08:27:14 -0700
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

> The goal was
>to get information out there and let people operating in a democracy make up
>their own minds.
>j

There's an interesting assumption buried in this idea that I think goes to
the heart of why reporters should exercise judgement. It's that a good
reporter adds no bias to a story. Of course every story is biased in myriad
subtle and unsubtle ways. (I tried to touch on this in our discussion of
using more than one source.) What we choose to write about, who we
interview, what quotes we use, how we write our ledes and conclusions, all
add up to bias.

If we accept this at the outset, it seems obvious that we have to exercise
judgement to control that unavoidable bias.

Steve

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: awach@friend.ly.net
Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 12:23:05 -0400
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

Joel N. Shurkin wrote:
>>When I was a lad . . . I was taught and firmly believed that our
obligation was to
>>write the best we could and damn the results. Not our problem. The goal was
>>to get information out there and let people operating in a democracy make up
>>their own minds. . .
>I don't think you were taught wrong at all. Where you may have been
>confused was in seeing a contradiction between "writing the best we could"
>and "giving thought to the readers."
> John Gever wrote:
>The problem with the Old School was its attitude that if you quoted your
>sources accurately, your obligation was fully discharged. Never mind if the
>sources were full of s**t. . . . you can thank the Warren Court in NYT vs.
Sullivan for much of this change in attitude. The actual malice standard --
knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for whether it's true or not --
sets out with brilliant
>clarity that you can't just hide behind your sources' skirts.

*****************
Alan Wachter adds:
I read compassion for the reader as well as respect for fact and law in
Joel's comment. Whether Joel meant that or not, I believe concern for the
story's impact on readers is important for medical writers. Every consumer
cancer story is read by people who have survived cancer or have it now, or
whose friends and relatives were touched by the disease. Some years ago I
was diagnosed with bladder cancer and faced an uncertain and frightening
future. A newspaper story the very next day highlighted a university report
on an alarming increase in the kind of bladder cancer I had. The hedline
said "Bladder Cancer on Increase" and the lede paragraph quoted an expert
who said, "Despite chemotherapy and radical therapy, 97 percent of these
patients will die." It wasn't until the fourth paragraph that I learned the

purpose of the lede was to increase the dramatic impact of reports on new
drug combinations under study that, together with radical surgery, could up
the odds for survival. These reports made up the bulk of the article and in
fact, the new drug combination and surgery worked for me. We could debate
whether the fact-- an alarming increase in incidence--is more or less
important than the hope offered by new but unproved therapy. But I will
never forget the gut-wrenching impact of that lede quote on me and my
family, and I think about it every time I do a consumer piece on cancer or
one of the other afflictions that fall within my beat as a medical
columnist. Alan Wachter.

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 09:34:06 -0700
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

This is a very interesting issue. Assuming one takes the problem
seriously, how does one think through a story to make it . . . well,
accurate in context and impact as well as in fact? Do science writers use
conscious procedures? If so, where do they come from and what are they?

- -- Jon Franklin

**************************************************************************
------------------------------

Message From: akeck@aaas.org (AKECK)
Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 12:53:09 -0400
Subject: Kolata, cancer and cocktails (long msg)

Shauna said:

>But unlike you, Aries (If I understood you correctly), I think comments made in
>these circumstances are not always reliable.

No actually, Shauna, I agree with you. I don't think comments made under party
circumstances are completely reliable.

>It just sends alarm bells ringing in my head when I hear that a person was
>quoted on something they happened to say at a party, particularly in a man-
>woman conversation, since it's so easy to get someone to say completely
>outrageous and ridiculous things in those circumstances.

Alarm bells SHOULD go off, and that's why you should call up the scientist,
(when the reporter is official and chaste) and say, "You told me this at a party
last week, I'm going to use it in my story. Do you want to expand on it?" Note,
that doesn't mean that he can rewrite that statement, just temper it a bit in
more sober surroundings.

>If I haven't convinced you, then I have a question. If party banter is fair
>game for quoting, doesn't that mean no writer is ever off duty? And that no
>one can ever trust us enough to have a casual conversation in which they
>don't watch every word? That makes the world a pretty lonely place for
>writers.

Isn't it already? Seriously I don't think reporters are ever really off-
duty. However, there is a time when we are off the record. That's an official
"time-out" when sources (scientists) can speak out about anything and we cannot
print what they said. (or at least attribute it to them.) But off the record has
to be stated up front.

A very funny new book, "The Party," by Sally Quinn discusses exactly what we're
hashing over. Quinn was a Washington Post reporter (a party reporter in fact)
and the wife of former Post editor Ben Bradlee. She liked to consider her house
a safe house. That is, one in which reporters and sources could chat it up and
not worry about attribution. This was a rule stated beforehand. And it was, at
times, broken. The book is a good lesson in how to dance the dance of
attribution, drinking, and having a jolly good time.

My biggest objection is that you put man-woman in a different dynamic than man-
man. Oh yeah, we're different. But we're all reporters - scientists who forget
THAT will see their names in print until they remember.

- -- Aries Keck
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "Edward s. Susman" <70317.410@compuserve.com>
Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 13:36:39 -0400
Subject: RE: Cancer cures

Michael:
That's Enquirer, with an E

Ed Susman
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: praeburn@businessweek.com
Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 16:18:45 -0400
Subject: weeklies



In reference to Lee Siegel's comment about the Pavlovian
dogs following the Times, take a look at this week's
newsweeklies. Time, Newsweek and U.S. News all have cancer
on the cover.

Paul Raeburn
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Mlemonick
Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 17:13:11 EDT
Subject: Re: weeklies

In a message dated 5/11/98 8:43:00 PM, you wrote:

< newsweeklies. Time, Newsweek and U.S. News all have cancer

on the cover.
>>

Ahem. As a staff member at one of the dogs, allow me to point out that our
story was about the FLAP over the cancer "cure," and how it spiraled out of
control, not about the news story that wasn't. One might reasonably conclude,
given the enormous amount of attention paid to that topic on this mailing list
over the past week, that this was not an inappropriate way to go. (he said,
defensively)
**************************************************************************

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Message From: Deborah Ausman
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 11:55:23 -0600
Subject: Re: weeklies

I enjoyed the NYT Sunday business section this week, which also spent a lot
of time post-morteming the "cure" story. Of course, no mention that all the
hysteria could have been prevented if they'd published the story in their
Science Times section on Tuesday rather than above the fold on page 1 on
Sunday.

Deborah Ausman

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: witkowski
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 14:04:42 -0500
Subject: cocktail conversations

Shauna wrote:

>>If I haven't convinced you, then I have a question. If party banter is fair
>>game for quoting, doesn't that mean no writer is ever off duty? And that no
>>one can ever trust us enough to have a casual conversation in which they
>>don't watch every word? That makes the world a pretty lonely place for
>>writers.

Aries replied:

>?Isn't it already? Seriously I don't think reporters are ever really off-
>duty. However, there is a time when we are off the record. That's an official
>"time-out" when sources (scientists) can speak out about anything and we
>cannot
>print what they said. (or at least attribute it to them.) But off the
>record has
>to be stated up front.


>Alarm bells SHOULD go off, and that's why you should call up the scientist,
>(when the reporter is official and chaste) and say, "You told me this at a
>party
>last week, I'm going to use it in my story. Do you want to expand on it?"
>Note,
>that doesn't mean that he can rewrite that statement, just temper it a bit in
>more sober surroundings.

I want to be sure that I understand Aries' response correctly. Unless I say
immediately to a reporter/writer that the conversation is off the record,
then it is on the record and can be quoted, no matter the circumstances
under which the conversation took place? And the reporter/writer is no
obligation to clarify what was said, before publishing?

Jan A. Witkowski, Ph.D.
Banbury Center
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
PO Box 534
Cold Spring Harbor NY 11724-0534

(516) 549-0507
(516) 549-0672 fax
http://www.cshl.org/banbury

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Shannon Brownlee
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 15:11:25 -0400
Subject: Re: Bigger Fish to Fry

At 10:38 PM 5/8/98 -0400, Jon Franklin wrote:
> >Well, given the business practices of the publishing industry, getting a
>contract is one thing and extracting that money is quite another. I'll bet
>it's paid out in tiny little dribbles and drabs.

And the bigger the check, the more drabs into which it gets divided. Still,
a million divied out in tenths is still OK by me.

Shannon

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Blbink
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 15:33:06 EDT
Subject: Cancer cures

I found Alan's anecdote very affecting and think that federal law should
require it to be imprinted above the computer screen of all health scribes.

Beryl

PS--Of course, the dirty secret of health and (especially) fitness writing is
that, contrary to what the doctor in Alan's story said, 100% of us are going
to die--of something. I wish American health writing--and most especially
American health care--dealt with that fact more sensibly.

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Shannon Brownlee
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 16:06:20 -0400
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

Paul Raeburn's recent message noted that all three newsweeklies put the
"cancer cure" on the cover. I submit to you, fellow SWs, what the heck were
we supposed to do? It was obviously the news of the week, and the coverage
during the week had been all over the lot. We figured we needed to give a
little perspective to the story from our luxurious vantage point of have a
few days to report the story instead of a few minutes. We figured we needed
to follow the thin path between dashing hope and hyping it.

We have gone around and around on these kinds of stories at US News. When
cold fusion broke we didn't weigh in for weeks because it was such a load of
nonsense scientifically. There were plenty of dailies that were writing
about it with absolute accuracy (Jerry Bishop at the WSJ comes to mind). But
there were plenty of other outlets that didn't have a clue. At a certain
point we had to write about it just to try to help our readers out of the
quagmire of misinformation.

We tried to do the same thing with Folkman's work, since the dailies and tv

stations were veering wildly between dumping on it as just another
interferon and hailing it as the answer to cancer. By the end of the week it
had trascended science and become a media/business story as well, making it
all the more newsworthy.

Shannon Brownlee
U.S. News & World Report
1030 Sandpiper Lane
Annapolis, MD 21403
202-955-2137
410-216-9582
sbrownlee@usnews.com

**************************************************************************
-----------------------------

Message From: Dann Hayes
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 15:23:15 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

>Paul Raeburn's recent message noted that all three newsweeklies put the
>"cancer cure" on the cover. I submit to you, fellow SWs, what the heck were
>we supposed to do?

I agree that the cancer story was "big news." So what to do?

Do you rehash a story from the NYT or some other paper, or do you develop a stronger story. From reading messages posted on this listserv, I've noticed that news of this kind isn't new. So what is?

What are the problems in getting items like these to work in humans? Why do we read news items in papers, but a cure for cancer doesn't follow? Is there a researcher trying to find ways to deliver these "cures" to areas of the body where they can work?

The news peg doesn't have to "a cure for cancer." I think the overall search for a cure, as well as with other illnesses, would be a story as well.

Anyway, that is my two cents worth.

Dann Hayes

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: John Gever
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 16:52:08 -0700
Subject: Re: cocktail conversations

At 02:04 PM 5/12/98 -0500, witkowski wrote:

>I want to be sure that I understand Aries' response correctly. Unless I say
>immediately to a reporter/writer that the conversation is off the record,
>then it is on the record and can be quoted, no matter the circumstances
>under which the conversation took place? And the reporter/writer is no
>obligation to clarify what was said, before publishing?

That is correct. Or, I should say, that is how the system works -- whether
it's correct or not is another matter.

- -john gever

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "Joel N. Shurkin"
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 14:10:30 -0700
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

Shannon wrote:

>Paul Raeburn's recent message noted that all three newsweeklies put the
>"cancer cure" on the cover. I submit to you, fellow SWs, what the heck were
>we supposed to do? It was obviously the news of the week, and the coverage
>during the week had been all over the lot. We figured we needed to give a
>little perspective to the story from our luxurious vantage point of have a
>few days to report the story instead of a few minutes. We figured we needed
>to follow the thin path between dashing hope and hyping it.

With proper respect, it was NOT the news of the week. It wasn't even news.
This was the week in which the President lost another case in court, the
Middle East peace process probably died, mergers dominated industries
(including one of America's oldest companies), Indonesia went to the brink
of collapse, the Irish get ready to vote on peace, Gates gets ready to issue
Windows 98 (if they let him)...etc, etc, etc. What was news about the cancer
story was the media, not the science.

And your story was terrific, very well done, as we would expect. But a
cover?
>

- ----------------------
Joel N. Shurkin

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Mlemonick
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 19:40:37 EDT
Subject: Re: Re: Cancer cures

In a message dated 5/12/98 9:10:50 PM, joel@nasw.org wrote:

>With proper respect, it was NOT the news of the week. It wasn't even news.
>This was the week in which the President lost another case in court, the
>Middle East peace process probably died, mergers dominated industries
>(including one of America's oldest companies), Indonesia went to the brink
>of collapse, the Irish get ready to vote on peace, Gates gets ready to issue
>Windows 98 (if they let him)...etc, etc, etc. What was news about the cancer
>story was the media, not the science.
>

With proper respect in return, the possibility of a cancer cure, whether true
or not, and whether the media or the science, was in fact something that a
huge number of Americans were talking about and thinking about and worrying
about last week--unless I hang out with a very unusual group of people. To
assert that this was not the news of the week, or at least a significant chunk
of it, seems naive to me.

As Shannon rightly points out, all three newsweeklies did precisely what our

job is: put the news of the week in perspective. A newspaper has the luxury of
having six or eight stories on the front page; a newsmagazine can have only
one (with references to a couple more). All of the stories you refer to were
indeed important, but frankly, so what? One might deduce from your post that
only hard-news stories are permissible on newsmagazine covers. Fortunately,
for us and for our readers, this is not the case.

Mike Lemonick
TIME
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "Joel N. Shurkin"
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 17:10:44 -0700
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

Mike Lemonick wrote:

>With proper respect in return, the possibility of a cancer cure, whether
true
>or not, and whether the media or the science, was in fact something that a
>huge number of Americans were talking about and thinking about and worrying
>about last week--unless I hang out with a very unusual group of people. To
>assert that this was not the news of the week, or at least a significant
chunk
>of it, seems naive to me.
> >As Shannon rightly points out, all three newsweeklies did precisely what
our
>job is: put the news of the week in perspective. A newspaper has the luxury
of
>having six or eight stories on the front page; a newsmagazine can have only
>one (with references to a couple more). All of the stories you refer to
were
>indeed important, but frankly, so what? One might deduce from your post
that
>only hard-news stories are permissible on newsmagazine covers. Fortunately,
>for us and for our readers, this is not the case.

No, the point was that this was not new and the emphasis is misguided. It
was in Nature four or five months earlier, in Business Week a month or two
earlier and the work has been going on for 20 years. The only reason for it
being on the cover was that the New York Times had it and the Times story
and placement was over-wrought. The newsmagazines did the same thing,
without, let me add, the ethical problems. I do not for a minute think
curing cancer is not important and, while I haven't read it, I will assume
the Time story was as measured and rational as Shannon's. And most
certainly, a good medical feature is worth a cover. But not if it is
disguised as a news story. And the fact all three newsmagazines had it on
the cover implies to those of us walking by a magazine stand that a cure for
cancer is coming around the corner. It is mob journalism again and not the
first time this has happened with cancer cures on the cover of newsweeklies.
Remember interleuken? Interferon? Wrong twice.
I most surely would have done a story. But there is a context that is
missing in the decision to have a cover (three covers, actually).

- ----------------------
Joel N. Shurkin
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Mlemonick
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 20:48:24 EDT
Subject: Re: Re: Cancer cures

In a message dated 5/13/98 12:10:51 AM, you wrote:

>The only reason for it
>being on the cover was that the New York Times had it and the Times story
>and placement was over-wrought. The newsmagazines did the same thing,
>without, let me add, the ethical problems.

No, the newsmagazines did not do the same thing.

>I do not for a minute think
>curing cancer is not important and, while I haven't read it, I will assume
>the Time story was as measured and rational as Shannon's. And most
>certainly, a good medical feature is worth a cover. But not if it is
>disguised as a news story.

Time's story was about the HYPE about cancer cures, which was indeed news. We
then went on to unravel the hype and present the facts behind the hype. What
you describe above is not what we did.

>And the fact all three newsmagazines had it on
>the cover implies to those of us walking by a magazine stand that a cure for
>cancer is coming around the corner

Only if you walk by that magazine stand very very quickly without your glasses
on. The cover lines, in Time's case at least made no such claim and carried no
such implication.
**************************************************************************

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Message From: "Joel N. Shurkin"
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 19:03:20 -0700
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

Since I haven't read the article I'll keep quiet.

j
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "Joel N. Shurkin"
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 19:17:28 -0700
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

I have now read the article and I think it is excellent. I hereby retract my
curmudgeonly comment. That was the right article for the, well, Time.

j

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Mary Knudson
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 22:42:47 -0400
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

> Joel Shurkin wrote:
> And most certainly, a good medical feature is worth a cover. But not if
it is > disguised as a news story. And the fact all three newsmagazines
had it on
> the cover implies to those of us walking by a magazine stand that a cure for
> cancer is coming around the corner. It is mob journalism again and not the
> first time this has happened with cancer cures on the cover of newsweeklies.
> Remember interleuken? Interferon? Wrong twice.
> I most surely would have done a story. But there is a context that is
> missing in the decision to have a cover (three covers, actually).
> - ----------------------

I agree that covers on the three newsmagazines certainly signal big
cancer news to the public. Probably lots more people over the course of
a week see the magazine covers as they go through their grocery line
checkouts, in addition to those who subscribe, than ever saw the NYT
Sunday piece. I've only seen the U.S. News piece, which, I agree was
written in properly measured tones.

But the cover call this "the most promising treatments ever for
malignant cells" and asks "How long will it be before humans benefit
from this exciting new research?" That indicates that U.S. News knows
humans definitely will benefit, it's just a matter of finding out how
long before it's on the market for humans. The more proper question
would be: Will humans ever benefit? In spite of the picture of a
mouse and the headline, "A Cure?" the cover seems to me to really hype
this "most-promising" treatment.

Mary
mary@nasw.org

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: lsiegel@sltrib.com (Lee Siegel)
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 21:26:53 -0600
Subject: Cancer of the Media

Mike wrote:
... To assert that this was not the news of the week, or at least a
significant chunk of it, seems naive to me. ... As Shannon rightly points
out, all three newsweeklies did precisely what our job is: put the news of
the week in perspective.

Mike, Mike Mike!
The problem is this "news" was completely manufactured. First, the
NY Times overplays old news and leaves an inaccurate impression that sends
readers scurrying to their doctors wanting the cure now. The problem is
amplified orders of magnitude because the networks and wires immediately
pick up the "news" in the Times. Then people all over the country are
talking about the "news" that really isn't news at all because it was
reported previously in Nature and by other news organizations. (Of course
they weren't the NY Times, so it didn't set off the feeding frenzy and
become big news back then. It was in -- horrors! -- proper perspective.) So
now that the old "news" has been sanctified as big f------ new news by the
NY Times, amplified by the Pavlovian lemmings of the daily media and
discussed by millions of people misled into beliving it was new and a big
deal, I guess we do need the newsweeklies to put in perspective.

Sheeesh! Wouldn't it have been easier and freaked out fewer people
if we all just IGNORED the NY Times when it blows a story?

Lee Siegel

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 21:53:18 -0700
Subject: Re: cocktail conversations

What John means, I suspect, is that's the lowest common denominator. There
is always some bottom-feeding reporter at a big media cocktail party who
will act that way, and scientists (and others) should certainly understand
that. I certainly won't report that way, though, and I know a lot of other
science writers who won't either. The reason is not respect for the
source, but for the reader. Otherwise you will inevitably end up
producing erroneous stories or, even worse, gaffe journalism.

- -- Jon Franklin

At 04:52 PM 5/12/98 -0700, you wrote:
>At 02:04 PM 5/12/98 -0500, witkowski wrote:
> >>I want to be sure that I understand Aries' response correctly. Unless I say

>>immediately to a reporter/writer that the conversation is off the record,
>>then it is on the record and can be quoted, no matter the circumstances
>>under which the conversation took place? And the reporter/writer is no
>>obligation to clarify what was said, before publishing?
> >That is correct. Or, I should say, that is how the system works -- whether
>it's correct or not is another matter.
> >-john gever

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 21:53:21 -0700
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

Yeah. And in my mind it also gets far too close to journalists
interviewing one another.

- -- Jon Franklin

>I agree that covers on the three newsmagazines certainly signal big
>cancer news to the public. Probably lots more people over the course of
>a week see the magazine covers as they go through their grocery line
>checkouts, in addition to those who subscribe, than ever saw the NYT
>Sunday piece. I've only seen the U.S. News piece, which, I agree was
>written in properly measured tones.
> >But the cover call this "the most promising treatments ever for
>malignant cells" and asks "How long will it be before humans benefit
>from this exciting new research?" That indicates that U.S. News knows
>humans definitely will benefit, it's just a matter of finding out how
>long before it's on the market for humans. The more proper question
>would be: Will humans ever benefit? In spite of the picture of a
>mouse and the headline, "A Cure?" the cover seems to me to really hype
>this "most-promising" treatment.
> >Mary
>mary@nasw.org

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 21:59:27 -0700
Subject: Re: Cancer of the Media

Yeah, well, look Lee, you just don't understand. Real news is labor
intensive. If we didn't feed off one another, think of how much it would
cost to get stuff to wrap around the tire ads! Think of it as a ratio
between man hours (okay, person hours) and lines of copy.

- -- Jon Franklin (Do I need the [g]?)

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "A'ndrea Elyse Messer"
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 07:54:28
Subject: Re: Re: Cancer cures

>With proper respect in return, the possibility of a cancer cure, whether true
>or not, and whether the media or the science, was in fact something that a
>huge number of Americans were talking about and thinking about and worrying
>about last week--unless I hang out with a very unusual group of people.

Perhaps you do hang out with an unusual group of people. I was giving one
of those talks to a local writing group last night and to make a point,
mentioned the NYTs story and the ensuing discussion/articles on the story
and on the journalistic ethic of the story, noting that the news magazines
all had covers on the topic.

It was the only time all evening I was met by blank stares. Perhaps one
person in a room of 30 was aware of the story. This in a university town
among a group of mostly college educated people.

A'ndrea Elyse Messer
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Mlemonick
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 08:09:56 EDT
Subject: Re: Re: Cancer cures

In a message dated 5/13/98 2:17:15 AM, you wrote:

>I have now read the article and I think it is excellent. I hereby retract my
>curmudgeonly comment. That was the right article for the, well, Time.

Ouch. But thanks (in the interest of full disclosure, I didn't write the
article in question, but I'm rather proud of my colleague Christine Gorman,
who did)
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Mlemonick
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 08:13:10 EDT
Subject: Re: Cancer of the Media

In a message dated 5/13/98 4:30:32 AM, you wrote:

>Mike, Mike Mike!
> The problem is this "news" was completely manufactured. First, the
>NY Times overplays old news and leaves an inaccurate impression that sends
>readers scurrying to their doctors wanting the cure now...... Sheeesh!
>Wouldn't it have been easier and freaked out fewer people
>if we all just IGNORED the NY Times when it blows a story?

Well...yes.

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Mlemonick
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 08:16:41 EDT
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Cancer cures

In a message dated 5/13/98 11:58:38 AM, you wrote:

>It was the only time all evening I was met by blank stares. Perhaps one

>person in a room of 30 was aware of the story. This in a university town
>among a group of mostly college educated people.

Interesting. I hope you followed up by asking them where they get their news
from. Because it sure ain't any national news outlet.
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "A'ndrea Elyse Messer"
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 08:38:30
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Cancer cures

Actually the local paper ran the story as well, but these people didn't
remember reading it, or hearing it on TV or NPR (and this is an NPR
listening community).

They probably did read or hear it and they didn't remember it because to
them it was not memorable.

A'ndrea

**************************************************************************
------------------------------

Message From: Mlemonick
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 08:57:00 EDT
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Cancer cures

In a message dated 5/13/98 12:42:28 PM, you wrote:

>They probably did read or hear it and they didn't remember it because to
>them it was not memorable.

Interesting. A lesson for us all, perhaps
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Chris Curran
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 09:59:07 -0500
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

>>> Mlemonick 05/12/98 07:48pm >>>

>And the fact all three newsmagazines had it on the cover implies to
>those of us walking by a magazine stand that a cure for cancer is coming
>around the corner

Only if you walk by that magazine stand very very quickly without your
glasses on. The cover lines, in Time's case at least made no such claim
and carried no such implication.
**************************************************************************

No offense, but don't you realize the impression is created by the cover
and headlines and graphics? Most people are not reading the details and
the careful explanation of the issues.

When the words CANCER CURE are bold and bright and the modifying
subheads are tiny and discrete, it's no different the Publisher's
Clearinghouse blaring "Michael Lemonick, YOU ARE A MILLIONAIRE!" if
we just happen by a billion in one chance to pull your name out of that.

Will someone out there in the print world finally admit that marketing is
having a definite and dangerous impact on your work?

Sincerely,

Chris Curran
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Henry Lansford
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 08:12:21 -0600
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Cancer cures

A'ndrea wrote:

>Actually the local paper ran the story as well, but these people didn't
>remember reading it, or hearing it on TV or NPR (and this is an NPR
>listening community).
> >They probably did read or hear it and they didn't remember it because to
>them it was not memorable.

I wonder if most of these people were young and healthy.

H

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Mlemonick
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 10:19:56 EDT
Subject: Re: Re: Cancer cures

In a message dated 5/13/98 1:57:12 PM, you wrote:

>hen the words CANCER CURE are bold and bright and the modifying
>subheads are tiny and discrete, it's no different the Publisher's
>Clearinghouse blaring "Michael Lemonick, YOU ARE A MILLIONAIRE!" if
>we just happen by a billion in one chance to pull your name out of that.

True. On the cover of Time, however, the word "cure" appears nowhere.
The major graphic is the word CANCER with the big red X through it. The
subhead, which I agree nobody would read unless they looked closer, says "How
to tell the hype from the hope." I don't think that's in the least
irresponsible. What does everyone else think?

>Will someone out there in the print world finally admit that marketing is
>having a definite and dangerous impact on your work?

Would this be the print world as opposed to the broadcasting world? Or the
world of public relations or the PIO?

In any case, of course it's true that marketing has an impact. If too many
people pick up Newsweek for too long as opposed to Time, we go out of
business. Thus, there's a clear premium on attracting people's attention,
forcing us to walk a potentially dangerous line. Are we indifferent to the
danger? Hardly, as you'd know if you'd ever been in a meeting where cover
images and cover lines are discussed. Do we sometimes slip over the line? Yes.
Do we usually? Not in my opinion.

However, I'm curious as to how YOU would have handled it--in the real world,
where you actually have to sell magazines or newspapers, not in a textbook.

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "A'ndrea Elyse Messer"
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 10:27:14
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Cancer cures

Henry, actually most of these people were middle aged to elderly.

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 07:43:41 -0700
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

I am afraid this caveat is real. How many times have you done a debunking
story only to see it run under a head like: _Shroud of Turin: Is it
Real?_ or _Investigating the Shroud of Turin_. The words themselves are
innocuous, but the reader takes away the impression that the publication is
taking it seriously. _Experts say Shroud a Hoax_ would convey a different

impression. Some editors very carefully do not think of these things.

- -- Jon Franklin

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Nancy Shute
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 11:00:56 -0400
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

As the co-author of one of the newsweekly cover stories, I just want to say:

Folks, please, do you really think that the writers write the coverlines?
Do you think we have any control over the coverlines?
Have you never cringed when you saw the the "breakthrough" headline the desk
slapped on your carefully crafted story?

Give us lowly writers a break!

- -- Nancy Shute

Senior Writer
US News & World Report
2400 N St. NW, Room 332
Washington, D.C. 20037

202-955-2341
Fax: 202-955-2478

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Stephen Hart
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 08:08:56 -0700
Subject: Re: Cancer of the Media

>...amplified by the Pavlovian lemmings of the daily media...
>Lee Siegel

You mean the Orwellian, Pavlovian lemming jackal slime beings of the press?

Steve

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Stephen Hart
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 08:17:38 -0700
Subject: Re: cocktail conversations

>I want to be sure that I understand Aries' response correctly. Unless I say
>immediately to a reporter/writer that the conversation is off the record,
>then it is on the record and can be quoted, no matter the circumstances
>under which the conversation took place? And the reporter/writer is no
>obligation to clarify what was said, before publishing?
> >Jan A. Witkowski, Ph.D.

In my meagre understanding:

The phrase "off the record" has no official meaning, it's merely a courtesy.

Problems often arise when a source says--after making a statement on
tape--by the way, that's off the record. For an off-the-record agreement to
have any teeth, it must be mutual and set up before the interview.

Sometimes sources ask if they can make some statements off the record. I
say sure, as long as you explicitly tell me which statements are on and
which off. The source rarely does.

Steve

**************************************************************************

-----------------------------

Message From: Stephen Hart
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 08:11:05 -0700
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

With the recent cancer story, as with the Monica Lewinsky story, there's a
fine line between analyzing a media feeding frenzy and joining in it. My
take is that a lot of publications did the latter while claiming the high
ground of the former.

Steve

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Mlemonick
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 12:10:10 EDT
Subject: Re: Re: Cancer cures

In a message dated 5/13/98 3:04:06 PM, you wrote:

>Folks, please, do you really think that the writers write the coverlines?
>Do you think we have any control over the coverlines?

At Time we don't have control, but we do have input, and we're encouraged to
speak up if we think a cover line is misleading.
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Mlemonick
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 12:10:56 EDT
Subject: Re: Re: Cancer cures

In a message dated 5/13/98 3:31:37 PM, you wrote:

>My
>take is that a lot of publications did the latter while claiming the high
>ground of the former.

That's a nice safe statement.
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Wrodger
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 13:06:42 EDT
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

I've hesitated to jump into this discussion, but there's one factor no one
seems to really, er, factor in here: Television. It's sweeps month, kids.
February, May, and November, if I remember correctly. TV stations are looking
for stuff to boost their ratings through the roof (a Seinfeld finale,
anyone?); I think it's to set ad rates for the coming months, and for bragging
rights, of course. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Seriously. When my editor assigned me the first Viagra piece, he was standing
in front of a television blaring MSNBC's theme for the day, "The New Sexual
Revolution?" In fact, that was the angle I was asked to investigate. (The
story turned out okay; I do think Viagra is a good story, and that was a valid
angle, although I admit to complaining a bit about it. And I really don't want
to hear any more jokes!)

On the day after the cancer drug "story" broke, CNN -- as someone may have
pointed out on this newsgroup earlier -- ran with it every half hour on the
half hour. I think their chat shows also focused on it, drawing even more
attention to the sorry subject. Said editor and I had the following
conversation on the story: Me: Mice! Editor (sadly): I know, but we have to. I
tried valiantly to talk everyone down, but failed. Luckily the stock shot
through the roof and I got a new and interesting angle.

My point is this. Many newsrooms have one, if not more, of these all-news
stations blaring at all times. In DC, CNN serves as a kind of police scanner
(when you see Wolf on the White House lawn, news is breaking out, and you'd
better turn up the TV). The endless repeating of stories that are clearly
being used not only because they're allegedly newsworthy but because these
stations have 24 hours to fill creates a kind of echo chamber in which we
newsroom sorts come to believe that the entire world is talking about
something just because it's on CNN constantly. I'm not surprised that that
group of 30 college-educated people someone here mentioned hadn't heard much
about the cancer drugs, frankly. They probably didn't spend their Monday
immersed in media (new or old, deadtree or e-), as we most certainly did.

Maureen Dowd thinks Bill Clinton is the devil? I say it's CNN. The Times may
have started the whole ugly cancer drug saga, but TV amplified the infection
and allowed it to spread.

Sigh. My colleagues have heard this particular rant before; thank you for
allowing me to dump it on more unwitting/unwilling souls. There goes that
career in TV news.

Elizabeth Neus
Gannett News Service

(speaking only for myself, of course)

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "Joel N. Shurkin"
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 10:30:22 -0700
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

The story was fine. That, however, doesn't excuse putting it on the cover. As an
editor of Slate pointed out, the newsweeklies wanted it both ways: they wanted to
distance themselves from the Kolata story and still have a cancer cure cover. It
deserved being in the back of the book, as did Kolata's original story.

The fact that all three magazines made the same non-decision is what's worrying.
They let the NYTimes dictate their covers even though they all agreed the
original story was overblown. That is not a news decision; that's a marketing
decision.

j

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Mlemonick
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 13:42:11 EDT
Subject: Re: Re: Cancer cures

In a message dated 5/13/98 5:30:34 PM, you wrote:

>The fact that all three magazines made the same non-decision is what's
>worrying.
>They let the NYTimes dictate their covers even though they all agreed the

>original story was overblown. That is not a news decision; that's a marketing
>decision.

Ever consider the possibility that a such a decision (or non-decision, if you
prefer the more negative term, but that would apply equally well to the time
that we all had the Oklahoma City bombing on the cover--also a non-decision in
that nobody doubted it was the right thing to do, and so what?) might be
influenced by both news AND marketing decisions? If not, I hope I never work
for a magazine you run, because I guarantee we'll all be out of jobs when the
publication goes down the tubes.
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "Joel N. Shurkin"
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 11:11:30 -0700
Subject: Re: Re: Cancer cures

Mike wrote:

>Ever consider the possibility that a such a decision (or non-decision, if you
>prefer the more negative term, but that would apply equally well to the time
>that we all had the Oklahoma City bombing on the cover--also a non-decision in
>that nobody doubted it was the right thing to do, and so what?) might be
>influenced by both news AND marketing decisions? If not, I hope I never work
>for a magazine you run, because I guarantee we'll all be out of jobs when the
>publication goes down the tubes.

I don't understand. The Oklahoma City bombing was news by every definition
of the word and one of the most important stories of the year if not the
decade. It required no considerable thought to lead with that. Leading with
a story that reports nothing new-indeed a story containing sufficient
reason to be cautious about the importance of same-is a different matter.

I have little experience with magazines. I do know what's killing
newspapers. I refer you to the late and lamented Philadelphia Bulletin. For
decades they ran ads in the New Yorker with clever cartoons attesting to
the fact that in Philadelphia, nearly everyone read the Bulletin. Which was
quite true. Then, when the Inquirer began giving them competition, the
owners did customer survey after customer survey and modeled the newspaper
to what the readers said they wanted. Short stories. Local news. Don't make
us think. Compete with teleivsiion. The management of the Inquirer knew
what was happening and did the opposite. The Bulletin was dead in 18
months, the victim of marketing, not news. The Inquirer won something like
15 Pulitzers in 13 years and survives and thrives. It has never been
demonstrated that pandering is a sure way to success in the news business,
or that holding to high standards a sure way to disaster.

j
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 11:45:14 -0700
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

Nancy, it seems to me that the evolving discussion implicitly recognizes
exactly this point. Many said the NYTimes article might have been okay if
it hadn't been played the way it was. This reminds us that journalism is
two businesses, publishing and reporting, and that editors occupy a very
difficult and perhaps impossible position as overseers and intermediaries.

- -- Jon Franklin

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 11:45:18 -0700
Subject: Re: Cancer of the Media

You forgot "yellow dog."

- -- Jon

At 08:08 AM 5/13/98 -0700, you wrote:
>>...amplified by the Pavlovian lemmings of the daily media...
>>Lee Siegel
> >You mean the Orwellian, Pavlovian lemming jackal slime beings of the press?
> >Steve
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 11:45:20 -0700
Subject: Re: Re: Cancer cures

If this bleak view is true, and I sometimes fear it is, it's a sad
statement not only about journalism but about our democracy. The other way
to look at it, though, is that historically the public has a certain limit
of toleration. They'll put up with some bullshit over the long haul, and a
lot of bullshit over the short hall. Looked at thataway, yellow journalism
is but our own profession's particular version of the short-termism
(quarterly report mania) that has overtaken the commercial world generally.

If that's the case, of course, the short-termers don't last the long term,
and something of a bit better quality is more likely to survive.

The same might could be said about bylines.

- -- Jon Franklin

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Mlemonick
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 15:13:00 EDT
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Cancer cures

In a message dated 5/13/98 6:12:12 PM, you wrote:

>I don't understand. The Oklahoma City bombing was news by every definition
>of the word and one of the most important stories of the year if not the
>decade. It required no considerable thought to lead with that.

Agreed. It was a non-decision

>Leading with
>a story that reports nothing new-indeed a story containing sufficient
>reason to be cautious about the importance of same-is a different matter.

But there was indeed something new. It's still a different matter, because the
new thing was a major blunder by a newspaper that most readers think of as
having a pretty much unassailable reputation.

>I have little experience with magazines. I do know what's killing
>newspapers. I refer you to the late and lamented Philadelphia Bulletin. For
>decades they ran ads in the New Yorker with clever cartoons attesting to
>the fact that in Philadelphia, nearly everyone read the Bulletin. Which was
>quite true.

I remember them well. They were terrific.

>Then, when the Inquirer began giving them competition, the
>owners did customer survey after customer survey and modeled the newspaper to
>what the readers said they wanted. Short stories. Local news. Don't make us
>think. Compete with teleivsiion. The management of the Inquirer knew what was
>happening and did the opposite. The Bulletin was dead in 18 months, the victim
>of marketing, not news. The Inquirer won something like 15 Pulitzers in 13
>years and survives and thrives. It has never been demonstrated that pandering
>is a sure way to success in the news business, or that holding to high
>standards a sure way to disaster.

I don't know that it's been convincingly demonstrated, either, that giving
people stories in which they have no interest and don't read is a surefire
formula for success. I tend to think it's got to be a mix. But maybe that's
just me

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: akeck@aaas.org (AKECK)
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 15:24:12 -0400
Subject: Cocktails and coversation

Jan Witkowski wrote:

>I want to be sure that I understand Aries' response correctly. Unless I say
>immediately to a reporter/writer that the conversation is off the record,
>then it is on the record and can be quoted, no matter the circumstances
>under which the conversation took place? And the reporter/writer is no
>obligation to clarify what was said, before publishing?

Yes - with caveats. I did say that you should confirm quotes with a scientist
and, especially if they seem a bit off, allow the scientist to "comment on his
comment." There are off the record conversations. Our background listserv is one
of them. I also feel that our conversations here on nasw-talk are closer to
'background' than an 'interview.' But they are for attribution. We are what we
say.

I don't want to create a climate of distrust and silence. As John Gever, John
Franklin, and Steven Hart have all said, the rule is - everything for
attribution. Even the statement "off the record" has no 'official" meaning. It's
completely up the reporter as to how to attribute the quote.

Trust and integrity are what's key here. No reporter worth a dime would
publish the drunken meanderings of a scientist. I'm glad Kolata mentioned that
Watson's comments came from a cocktail party. It put them in context. I wish she
had called back to confirm his reactions, but that would be what I would do.

- --- Aries Keck

P.S.: My initial reaction was to Shauna's statement that Watson's quote should
be tossed aside because it was an older man talking to a cute, young woman at a
cocktail party. I'm still incredulous that the sex of the reporter should excuse
Watson. She's a reporter for god's sake. She's a reporter for the New York
Times. Saying that he "forgot" himself because he was talking to a cute, young
woman is insulting to both of them. I'm damn glad she used the quote.
**************************************************************************
------------------------------

Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 13:03:16 -0700
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Cancer cures

This is the thing that's bothering many of us, I think. We have gone
through the looking glass. We are reporting on reporters. Without a doubt
there is a time for this, but we could do it 99 percent less and we would
still be overdoing it. It's similar to the celebrity problem. At first, a
person gets famous for doing something. Then they are famous because they
are famous -- because, in short, we write about them when we can't think of
something better to do.

The cancer story is news because it was not news.

- -- Jon Franklin

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 13:03:19 -0700
Subject: Re: Cocktails and coversation

I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment here. At the same time, reality
gets in the way of politics. I have seen the phenomenon being discussed:
Some men change their styles when they are talking to younger women. Men
are like that, once in a while. They have even been known to forget they
were talking to reporters. I hear, but cannot possibly credit, stories
that some female reporters actually find this advantageous.

Nah. Neither can I imagine that there is any mirroring frailty in people
who happen to carry two X chromosomes. And I am sure that, wherever there
is truth to any of this stuff, which is surely minimal, present company,
friends and relatives are all excepted.

- -- Jon

>P.S.: My initial reaction was to Shauna's statement that Watson's quote
should
>be tossed aside because it was an older man talking to a cute, young woman
at a
>cocktail party. I'm still incredulous that the sex of the reporter should
excuse
>Watson. She's a reporter for god's sake. She's a reporter for the New York
>Times. Saying that he "forgot" himself because he was talking to a cute,
young
>woman is insulting to both of them. I'm damn glad she used the quote.

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Stephen Hart
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 13:06:16 -0700
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

I don't mean to beat a dead fruit, nor to resurrect an old, boring thread,
but while you're sitting with the current Time in your lap, take a look at
the Apple add near the inside front cover. Read it page by page, and after
you fold it out (up), be sure to read the fine print on the right edge.

Pretty fine advertising, I think. A whole story in a few words and pictures.

Steve

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Henry Lansford
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 16:02:48 -0600
Subject: Re: Cocktails and coversation

Aries wrote:

>Trust and integrity are what's key here. No reporter worth a dime would
>publish the drunken meanderings of a scientist. I'm glad Kolata mentioned that
>Watson's comments came from a cocktail party. It put them in context. I
>wish she
>had called back to confirm his reactions, but that would be what I would do.

But wasn't it Watson who mentioned the context in his rebuttal letter? Or
have I lost track?

H

------------------------------

Message From: Bill Cannon
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 18:32:02 -0400
Subject: conquering cancer: a partial bib

HAVEN'T I SEEN YOU SOMEWHERE BEFORE?

Israel, Lucien. *Conquering Cancer.* Random House, 1978.

LAST YEAR'S BIG CANCER-CURE BOOK

Waldholz, Michael. *Curing Cancer: the Story of the Men and Women Unlocking
the Secrets of Our Deadliest Illness.* (Apparently, Dr. Folkman was not yet
among them -- no
mention of him, unless yer humble bibliographer missed it in the
index.) Simon & Schuster, 1997.

BIG CANCER-CURE BLAST FROM THE PAST

Moorcock, Michael. *A Cure for Cancer.* Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971.

SELECTIONS FROM THE CANCER-CURE PUBLISHING HALL OF FAME

Cutler, Max and Buschke, Franz. *Cancer, Its Diagnosis and Cure.* W.
Saunders, 1939.

Glum, Dr. Gary. *Calling an Angel: The True Story of Rene Caisse and an
Indian Herbal Medicine Called-Essiac--Nature's Cure for Cancer.* Silent
Walker Pub., 1988.

Halsted, William. *The Results of Radical Operations for the Cure of Cancer
of the Breast.* Offprint, 1909.

Haught, S.J. *Censured for Curing Cancer: the American Experience of Dr.
Max Gerson,* Gerson Institute/P.U.L.S.E., 1991. Originally publ. 1962 as
*Cancer? Think curable! The Gerson therapy* and/or *Has Dr. Max Gerson a
True Cancer Cure?* Major Books.

- --. A True Cancer Cure. Major Books, 1976.

Holleb, Arthur I. *The American Cancer Society Cancer Book: Prevention,
Detection, Diagnosis, Treatment, Rehabilitation, Cure.* Doubleday, 1986.

Nichols, Perry, M.D. *Cancer: Its Proper Treatment and Cure.* (A guide
to curing cancer with fungi.) Doctor Nichol's Sanitorium, 1929, reprinted
in 1931, 1939 and 1940 (and possibly other years).

Trull, Louise. *CanCell Controversy: Why is a Possible Cure for Cancer
Being Suppressed?* Hampton, 1993.

WET-BLANKET AWARD

Leary, Denis. *No Cure for Cancer.* Anchor, 1992.

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "Matt Clark"
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 18:30:12 -0400
Subject: Re: Cocktails and coversation

Aries:

I thought Watson said his comments to Kolata were made at a "dinner part."
When did Kolata say it was a coctail party?

Matt Clark
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 16:27:41 -0700
Subject: Re: conquering cancer: a partial bib

What I wanna know is how many minutes it took Denis' book to go out of print?

- -- Jon Franklin

------------------------------

Message From: Karin Garabed Jegalian
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 17:17:39 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Cocktails and coversation

> Aries:
>
> I thought Watson said his comments to Kolata were made at a "dinner part."
> When did Kolata say it was a coctail party?
>
> Matt Clark

Kolata's article did not mention that Watson had spoken at any kind of
party -- cocktail, dinner, or otherwise. That's what struck me most in
Watson's letter to the Times -- whatever he'd said exactly, Kolata had
quoted him from a party conversation, and not from a conventional
interview, as I'd assumed from reading the article.
I don't mean to dump on Gina Kolata. Her article impressed me
when I read it Saturday night on-line before all the hullabaloo erupted.
And if she'd just mentioned the context of Watson's remarks, had not
circulated a book proposal on the day her article created such a buzz,
and if the story had been placed in the science section, everything would
have been just fine.

Btw, I subscribed to this listserv the weekend that the Times
article appeared (hard to believe that was only 10 days ago). ... Lucky me!
I'm assuming the kind of agitation we saw on this listserv last week
is not typical. Things look calmer already. But thanks for the education.

Karin Jegalian

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Jeff Hecht
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 20:36:46 -0400
Subject: Wet blankets and cancer cures

Bill Cannon wrote.

>BIG CANCER-CURE BLAST FROM THE PAST
> >Moorcock, Michael. *A Cure for Cancer.* Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971.
> To toss a wet blanket on your wet blanket, Michael Moorcock writes science
fiction. He's churned out dozens of SF novels, and I'm reasonably sure this
is one.

While I'm at it, an old friend passed on this bit of wisdom many years
ago... There are always two stories in any medical development. The first
is the promise of X. The second, a few years later, is the dangers of X.

Jeff Hecht Boston Correspondent New Scientist magazine
525 Auburn St., Auburndale, MA 02166 USA
tel 617-965-3834 fax 617-332-4760 e-mail jhecht@world.std.com
URL: http://www.sff.net/people/Jeff.Hecht/
see New Scientist on the Web: http://www.newscientist.com/

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Henry Lansford
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 19:47:26 -0600
Subject: Re: Cocktails and coversation

Karin wrote:

> I'm assuming the kind of agitation we saw on this listserv last week
>is not typical. Things look calmer already. But thanks for the education.

You ain't seen nuthin' yet, Karin. Wait until we get back to the subject of
what kinds of computers we use. But welcome anyway.

H

------------------------------

Message From: Bill Thomasson <71101.2601@compuserve.com>
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 22:31:19 -0400
Subject: Re: Cocktails and coversation

Karin Jegalian wrote:
>I'm assuming the kind of agitation we saw on this
>listserv last week
>is not typical. Things look calmer already. But thanks for the education.

Well, it was maybe a bit extreme. But almost every day -- well, almost
every weekday -- we find *something* to be agitated about. For some reason
weekends (just when I'd think people would have more time to post) is when
things often go quiet.

Bill Thomasson
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "Matt Clark"
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 21:03:54 -0400
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

Joel:

You must be my age. It's hard to accept that newspapers and magazines don't
tell their readers what *they* think the reader should know. Focus groups
now tell them what the reader wants to know. Marketing.

But I think all three newsmags did a laudible job on the cancer story; I
don't think they tried to have it both ways. All three of them tried to
repair some of the damage done by the NY Times monumental blunder and then
put cancer therapy research in some kind of proportion. It's too bad that
Kolata's story had to be the occasion, but I agree with the individual
decisions of the magazines.

Matt Clark

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "Matt Clark"

Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 20:56:19 -0400
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

Elizabeth:

No need to apologize. I think many of us would agree that TV set science
reporting back a generation in such respects, the use of the word
"breakthrough" being only the smallest example.

Matt Clark
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Bill Cannon
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 23:33:22 -0400
Subject: wet blankets

Jeff Hecht wrote:

>To toss a wet blanket on your wet blanket, Michael Moorcock writes science
>fiction. He's churned out dozens of SF novels, and I'm reasonably sure this
>is one.

My assumption, Jeff, was that the entire list was
science fiction. Moorcock's book was probably the
most truthful in its way. --Bill

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 23:45:00 -0700
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

>Joel:
>You must be my age. It's hard to accept that newspapers and magazines don't
>tell their readers what *they* think the reader should know. Focus groups
>now tell them what the reader wants to know. Marketing.

This strikes me as a false dichotomy. I don't think journalists should
decide what people should know, in the sense the above quote seems to
imply. But focus groups and studies can't tell us what the readers want,
either. What evidence do we have that the reader knows? The reader wants
to be informed, entertained, surprised, mesmerized, with something he or
she could never have imagined. We want Ma to shout, "Hey, Henry, come
lookit what's in the paper today!" And then we round them up, set them
around the table, and ask them to tell us what they want?

Human nature says they will come up with something to day, if only to keep
from feeling stupid. But it's probably meaningless.

Life in Vaudeville is not that easy.

- -- Jon Franklin

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "Michael Kenward (E-mail)"
Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 09:07:41 +0100
Subject: RE: Cocktails and coversation

> I'm assuming the kind of agitation we saw on this
>listserv last week
>is not typical. Things look calmer already. But thanks for the
>education.
>

Nah. This is tame stuff. Just wait till someone starts touting the
superiority of their Mac. Or asks people to write for free. Or seeks advice
on becoming a science writer. That's when the fertiliser hits the air
conditioning.

MK
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: "Michael Kenward (E-mail)"
Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 09:00:58 +0100
Subject: RE: conquering cancer: a partial bib

>BIG CANCER-CURE BLAST FROM THE PAST
> >Moorcock, Michael. *A Cure for Cancer.* Holt, Rinehart and
>Winston, 1971.
>

Mike is, of course, a larger than life writer of science fiction/fantasy,
creator of Jerry Cornelius among other characters. Can't remember the above,
but it was around the time when I used to drink with Mike. It was almost
certainly somewhat strange.

MK
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: akeck@aaas.org (AKECK)
Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 10:57:10 -0400
Subject: Cocktails and conversation - attribution?

Henry Lansford

>But wasn't it Watson who mentioned the context in his rebuttal letter? Or
>have I lost track?

Mea Culpa - Watson was the one who mentioned he was talking to Gina Kolata at a
cocktail party. I'm still damn glad she used the quote. But she didn't mention
he said it at a party. He mentioned it in in letter.

That brings up an interesting point. I've noticed that the NYT will say "in a
telephone interview" sometimes when they're quoting a scientist. Do any other
reporters feel they must state where and how an interview takes place?

- -- Aries Keck
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: John Gever
Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 11:06:17 -0700
Subject: Re: Cocktails and conversation - attribution?

At 10:57 AM 5/14/98 -0400, AKECK wrote:

> >That brings up an interesting point. I've noticed that the NYT will say "in a
>telephone interview" sometimes when they're quoting a scientist.

Of all the stupid conventions used by the Times, this has to be the stupidest.

- -john gever

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: akeck@aaas.org (AKECK)
Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 11:21:57 -0400
Subject: Cocktails and Conversation

Jon Franklin said:

>...I have seen the phenomenon being discussed: Some men change their styles
>when they are talking to younger women. Men are like that, once in a while.
>They have even been known to forget they were talking to reporters. I hear,
>but cannot possibly credit, stories that some female reporters actually find

>this advantageous.
> >Nah. Neither can I imagine that there is any mirroring frailty in people
>who happen to carry two X chromosomes. And I am sure that, wherever there
>is truth to any of this stuff, which is surely minimal, present company,
>friends and relatives are all excepted.

Hmm, I have a thought. What if Watson were talking to someone like, Jon
Franklin or Joel Shurkin, and Watson said some outrageous statements about
another scientist's work? In that instance, should anyone mention the sexual
dynamics? Not only was this a social situation, but it was a man talking to an
another man. I'd be curious why they would take anything Dr. Watson
would say as more than peacock-strutting. I mean, everyone knows that when one
man talks to another they puff up their achievements in order to one-up each
other.

I guess all women can do is keep our eyes out for this sort of thing. And be
aware that sometimes men may forget they are talking to reporters. I hear that
some male reporters actually find this ego-squelching technique advantageous. I
wonder if male reporters do this intentionally? And if so, it's just not fair
to use your sexuality to get a juicy quote.

- --- Aries Keck

(for those irony-impaired: please note tounge-in-cheek)

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Jon Franklin
Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 08:58:40 -0700
Subject: Re: Cocktails and Conversation

Oh, there are plenty of scientists who peacock strut in front of EVERYONE.
Relax. I'm on your side. But I also know the human animal is part human
and part animal, and as a reporter I don't think we should confuse what
_is_ with what _should be_. I have plenty of friends who are reporters and
women, and they tell me they get the masher treatment all the time. They
make different choices about how they respond. Always have, and always
will. This was an excruciating issue when my daughter went into reporting,
and discovered it wasn't like anything she'd read in her textbooks.

And some people will use anything to get a story, men and women, and we all
know it. I _hope_ we all know it. (Some people will also do anything to
get written _about_.)

- -- Jon Franklin

**************************************************************************
------------------------------

Message From: "Joel N. Shurkin"
Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 09:13:51 -0700
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

Jon wrote:

> >This strikes me as a false dichotomy. I don't think journalists should
>decide what people should know, in the sense the above quote seems to
>imply. But focus groups and studies can't tell us what the readers want,
>either. What evidence do we have that the reader knows? The reader wants
>to be informed, entertained, surprised, mesmerized, with something he or
>she could never have imagined. We want Ma to shout, "Hey, Henry, come
>lookit what's in the paper today!" And then we round them up, set them
>around the table, and ask them to tell us what they want?
> >

On top of which, they lie. They often say what they thing they should say
or what they think the interviewer wants them to say. It is true of many
attitudinal studies and very true with newspaper readership polls, all of
which say essentially the same thing, and all of which are generally false.

j

------------------------------

Message From: "Matt Clark"
Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 13:20:17 -0400
Subject: Re: Cocktails and conversation - attribution?

Henry:

Watson said he was talking to Kolata at a DINNER party. I don't know where
the coctail party notion got into this.

Matt Clark
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: rosie mestel
Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 10:20:09 -0700
Subject: watson...

It's probably been said before, in which case apologies, but anyway: WHY
be glad that Kolata used Watson's quote? It was a silly thing for Watson
to say. And--great'n'famous scientist though he may be--he's not slap
bang in the middle of cancer research so not in the best position to
know how long it'll take to cure cancer, so what does his quote even
mean? Just that famous scientists shoot their mouths off sometimes. Save
Watson's quote for the "shoot-their-mouth-off" article. SILLY to use it
for the cancer one.

Also, I just read the Time cancer special and it seemed perfectly fine
and informative, and the cover seemed just fine to me too. Totally
reasonable, I feel, for newsmagazines to decide to cover this properly
given all the houpla there was.

- --Rosie
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Carol Hart
Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 12:32:04 -0400
Subject: Re: Cocktails and conversation - attribution?

At 11:06 AM 5/14/98 -0700, you wrote:
>At 10:57 AM 5/14/98 -0400, AKECK wrote:
> >> >>That brings up an interesting point. I've noticed that the NYT will say
"in a
>>telephone interview" sometimes when they're quoting a scientist.
> >Of all the stupid conventions used by the Times, this has to be the
stupidest.

Maybe it serves to let you know why you are not being subjected to a
convention that annoys me more--the description of the scientist's looks,
demeanor and social manner that is intended, I suppose, to make science
"personal" for the reader.
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: akeck@aaas.org (AKECK)
Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 13:31:48 -0400
Subject: Cocktails and conversation

Jon Franklin wrote:

>"Relax. I'm on your side. But I also know the human animal is part human
>and part animal, and as a reporter I don't think we should confuse what
>_is_ with what _should be_."

Right. Please don't take my tounge-in-cheek answer personally. My point was that
there's all kinds of dynamics. Older man flirting with young woman reporter.
Older man lecturing young reporter. Emotion-packed pissing matches like the one
between Gary Taubes and Stanley Prusiner. They're all true to some degree. I
just hate to see old-man/young-woman be thought of as the ONLY one.

- --- Aries Keck
**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Henry Lansford
Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 14:23:53 -0600
Subject: Re: Cocktails and conversation - attribution?

Matt wrote:

>Henry:
> >Watson said he was talking to Kolata at a DINNER party. I don't know where
>the coctail party notion got into this.

Don't want to prolong this ridiculously, but all I said was that it was
Watson who mentioned the context of his remarks. It was Aries who referred
to a cocktail party.

Maybe they served cocktails before dinner, but I thought the main point was
not the presence or absence of alcoholic beverages but simply that it was a
social occasion rather than an interview.

Cheers, Henry

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Shannon Brownlee
Date: Fri, 15 May 1998 12:12:26 -0400
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

At 05:11 PM 5/12/98 -0400, you wrote:
>Shannon wrote:
> It was obviously the news of the week, and the coverage
>>during the week had been all over the lot.

Joel replied:
>With proper respect, it was NOT the news of the week. It wasn't even news.
>This was the week in which the President lost another case in court, the
>Middle East peace process probably died, mergers dominated industries
>(including one of America's oldest companies), Indonesia went to the brink
>of collapse, the Irish get ready to vote on peace, Gates gets ready to issue
>Windows 98 (if they let him)...etc, etc, etc. What was news about the cancer
>story was the media, not the science.
> >And your story was terrific, very well done, as we would expect. But a
>cover?

You're very kind Joel, thank you.

Despite your blandishments, I disagree with your basic point--it was indeed
the news of the week. The research wasn't news, but the fooforah over it
was. That's what we had to cover. One of our (evolving) purposes here at the
newsweeklies is to add a bit of perspective--sort of like the Week in Review
and Outlook sections in the Sunday Times and Wash Post.

Shannon

**************************************************************************

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Message From: Shannon Brownlee
Date: Fri, 15 May 1998 14:23:46 -0400
Subject: Re: Cancer of the Media

At 12:31 AM 5/13/98 -0400, Lee Siegel wrote:

> The problem is this "news" was completely manufactured. First, the
>NY Times overplays old news and leaves an inaccurate impression that sends
>readers scurrying to their doctors wanting the cure now. The problem is
>amplified orders of magnitude because the networks and wires immediately
>pick up the "news" in the Times. Then people all over the country are
>talking about the "news" that really isn't news at all because it was
>reported previously in Nature and by other news organizations. (Of course
>they weren't the NY Times, so it didn't set off the feeding frenzy and
>become big news back then. It was in -- horrors! -- proper perspective.) So
>now that the old "news" has been sanctified as big f------ new news by the
>NY Times, amplified by the Pavlovian lemmings of the daily media and
>discussed by millions of people misled into beliving it was new and a big
>deal, I guess we do need the newsweeklies to put in perspective.
> Sheeesh! Wouldn't it have been easier and freaked out fewer people
>if we all just IGNORED the NY Times when it blows a story?
> thank goodness for the lemmings or Mike and I would have to look for new
jobs.

Shannon

**************************************************************************
------------------------------

Message From: Shannon Brownlee
Date: Fri, 15 May 1998 14:46:15 -0400
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

I think there's some confusion about what constitutes news to a newsweekly.
The fact that the NY Times does a story is not reason enough for us to go
scurrying around, busting our butts to do a story. It IS news when every
major television station, every local daily, and even chatrooms on the net
are talking about it. Writing about a topic that is on the tip of people's
tongues is not the same as interviewing other journalists. I'm as annoyed as
anybody about the NY Times doing the story in the way they did, but since
they did it, and since everybody else followed them as Lee Siegel put it
like lemmings off the cliff, then I have to write about it too.

As for Mary's comments about our cover, it seemed to us that putting the
mouse on the cover and saying, "Meet the mouse that beat cancer" made it
clear to just about anybody that we were talking about curing mice, and rhat
maybe people would benefit in the future. The answer to "How long will it
be. . . " could be "never." But I doubt that. Especially since the story
details a number of different kinds of treatments that are already in the
clinic. Every scientist I know believes that this incredible investment in
basic research that has been going on for 25 years will one day pay off.
And antiangiogenics ARE the most promising treatment to come along. Just
because there's no guarantee that they will pan out in clinical trials
doesn't negate the fact that this is amazing research, it's a new paradigm
for treating cancer, and that it looks more promising that just about
anything else at a similar level of development. What are we supposed to say
on the cover? "Bad idea, Won't Work"? Not only is that not cover material,
but it's as incorrect as saying this is the cure.

Shannon Brownlee

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Shannon Brownlee
Date: Fri, 15 May 1998 14:50:33 -0400
Subject: Re: Re: Cancer cures

At 08:00 AM 5/13/98 -0400, A'ndrea Elyse Messer wrote:
>It was the only time all evening I was met by blank stares. Perhaps one
>person in a room of 30 was aware of the story. This in a university town
>among a group of mostly college educated people.

Who don't read the paper ro watch the evening news, I've discovered.

Shannon

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Shannon Brownlee
Date: Fri, 15 May 1998 14:57:57 -0400
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

>Will someone out there in the print world finally admit that marketing is
>having a definite and dangerous impact on your work?
> >Sincerely,
> >Chris Curran

I'm shocked! Shocked!

Well, yes, it does. It always has, and always will so long as the news is
put out by private enterprises and not the government (which presents its
own obvious problems). We have to sell magazines. But we also have to be
accurate, truthful, reliable etc, etc. It's a very narrow course between the
two.

Shannon Brownlee

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: Shannon Brownlee
Date: Fri, 15 May 1998 15:22:50 -0400
Subject: Re: Cancer cures

I just sent Nancy a note privately, but I think I should say it out loud. I
don't agree that if its bad, its my editor's fault. In fact, we have
considerable input here. and can tone things down when they veer into
hyperspace. So, those of you who hated our cover can blame me and Nancy at
least in part. But remember, this is not Science magazine, it's a commercial
venture (although Science happens to be wildly profitable). Every paper,
every TV station, every magazine has to sell copies or die. By the same
token, you don't want to print nonsense. So you do your best and argue with
your editors and win some and lose some.


Shannon Brownlee

**************************************************************************

------------------------------

Message From: lsiegel@sltrib.com (Lee Siegel)
Date: Fri, 15 May 1998 13:04:16 -0600
Subject: Cancer cures

Shannon wrote:
What are we supposed to say on the cover? "Bad idea, Won't Work"?
Not only is that not cover material, but it's as incorrect as saying this is
the cure.

How about this for a cover:
A gruesome closeup photo of a dying cancer patient trying to phone
his doctor, while healthy mice scurry around the hospital bed. Jim Watson
and Gina Kolata stand in the room, drinks in hand, declaring, "Hang in there
buddy -- only two years!" Superimposed on this scene is a Sunday New York
Times with a big red circle and slash marked over it, and under the whole
scene the headline "Cancer Hype from Hell".
That might sell a few magazines.

Cheers!

Lee Siegel

**************************************************************************

End of Part 3.

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Return to Part 1.

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