Wednesday, October 19, 2005

There you go again

Heh, rarely will readers ever see me reference Ronald Reagan's rhetoric, but today it's appropriate. Once again I find myself sending an email off to the Seattle Times. It's not likely to end up in the paper as it's a rather long missive. Still, for the second time in a couple of weeks, I've read articles in the Times that leave out facts referenced in an article previously published in the Times that I think would help readers reach different conclusions about what they are reading in the current article.

Previously, as I blogged about here, The Seattle Times had published a great article by one of their science reporters on global warming and the public's perception of it. They followed that article up less than a week later by re-printing an article from the Washington Post using quotes from a "skeptic" whose work was shown in the Times' article to questionable (paid for by oil corporations and not peer reviewed). Nowhere in the second article was information from the first article questioning the skeptic's work mentioned. Leaving out that information could, ironically, lead to the same problems of public perceptions of global warming that the Times' excellent piece sought to explore.

A similar error of omission occurred in an article in today's paper titled Bird-flu vaccine: We may be last in line. The article goes on at great length to describe the lack of vaccine or treatment for the bird-flu as a problem of a lack of domestic production facilities (on a side note, expect legislation soon for tax breaks for drug companies to "correct" this "problem"). From the article:

"There's no secret about the fact that our vaccine-manufacturing capacity domestically is not what we need it to be," U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt said after a meeting this month with vaccine makers.
In fact, after that "meeting this month", the Seattle Times ran an article re-printed from the Washinton Post on October 8th titled Bush asks drug execs to develop flu vaccine. In this earlier article another dimension of our lack of treatment stockpiles is offered:

The United States has 4.3 million 10-dose courses of treatment stockpiled — enough for less than 2 percent of the population — and has ordered 8 million additional courses.

By contrast, several European nations have placed huge orders to cover 20 to 40 percent of their populations.

In fact, this blog noted that Times re-print and went on to quote a NY Times article on the same topic which stated (emphasis, my own):

Terence Hurley, a Roche spokesman, said that 40 countries had ordered Tamiflu to fill medical stockpiles in case of a pandemic. Many countries in Europe - including France, Britain, Finland, Norway and Switzerland - have ordered enough to treat 20 percent to 40 percent of their populations. The American stockpile would treat less than 2 percent of the population.

The government and industry officials, however, said that Roche had committed to delivering seven million courses to the United States next year and would not be able to deliver substantially more until 2007.

That's right - 40 other countries had better planning and had placed orders for a potential treatment before the Bush administration had gotten their act together. Indeed, according to this news there is a production capacity dimension to this problem, but it is not solely a production issue. Rather, this government in the U.S., and I include congressional leaders as well, has failed to recognize a potential problem with devastating consequences and therefore has not taken the appropriate measures needed to protect it's citizenship. It's a pattern.

One might excuse the Seattle Times for not citing the NY Times article, but surely it's editors should have known what was printed in their own paper. I'm not suggesting a conspiracy of any sort. Rather, this is most likely a mistake or oversight on the behalf of editors at the Seattle Times. Still, the Times and it's readership might be better served if it's editors spent more time becoming familiar with the news that they print instead of just becoming familiar with the business of printing news. That's basically what my email to the editors will say today when I send it. Unfortunately, the Times website is partially down so I cannot confirm the email address for the opinions at this moment.


Scott said...

Here ya' go:

Go get 'em!

B.D. said...

Thanks! I sent in the email. I doubt that I'll hear back as it's a long one, but we'll see.