When the Audience Becomes the Publisher

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This week 8NewsNow Las Vegas aired a segment on childhood immunizations.  The segment is worth a look only as a means of showcasing how biased, poorly researched reporting can potentially influence the thinking of anxious parents.  The piece opens by spontaneously entertaining the question about whether children even need immunizations and goes on to offer the irresponsible suggestion that deadly childhood infections might be preventable with diet.

Feeling some responsibility to join the conversation, I posted the following comment on 8NewsNow’s site which they refused to publish.  Beyond suppression of the facts, it would seem that suppression of dialog is another way to shape how a story unfolds.  What those at 8NewsNow who elected to disallow my participation don’t understand is that (in the words of Jay Rosen) the audience has now become the publisher.  Despite their best efforts, they can’t stop the conversation about what parents need and want to understand.

While this story offers equal time between a chiropractor (represented as a ‘holistic doctor’) and a pediatrician, altered immunization schedules concocted by non-physicians aren’t worthy of equal time. While your story has viewers believing that every parent has the knowledge to implement an individualized approach to childhood immunization, this simply isn’t the case. The development and safe scheduling of vaccines to reliably prevent devastating childhood disease is based on our understanding of specific infectious diseases, years of accumulated research as well as the consensus of many of the country’s greatest infectious disease minds. The prevention of childhood disease is not a democratic process where we pick and choose what’s popular or fashionable.

It should also be noted there isn’t a single reference demonstrating that an “alternate vaccine schedule” is actually beneficial for children. This slanted bit of ‘reporting’ promulgates the ideology of a vocal, but deluded, minority.

Pediatricians – those best positioned to advocate for children – understand the basis for our current immunization schedule and use it in their practices. These pediatricians understand that the “alternative vaccine schedule” has never been endorsed, approved, or recognized by any body of physicians. And to suggest that your story offers a ‘debate between doctors’ should be seen as an embarrassment for any news organization.

Your piece misrepresents and sets back two generations of work by tireless child health advocates who have worked to eradicate deadly childhood disease. Diane Tuazon, as well as the producers who left her unsupervised, should be ashamed of themselves for fueling the fires of vaccine hesitancy and putting those unable to advocate for themselves at further risk. Channel 8 should take steps to remove this segment. Going forward, 8NewsNow should work harder to create reporting that’s in line with evidence-based medicine.

This situation illustrates why every physician needs to be part of the public dialog.

Addendum August 5, 2 PM CST: My comment was released and now available on the 8NewsNow site.  The explanation offered is that there was no one available over the weekend to moderate comments that were received late Friday evening.  My comment was submitted on Thursday August 1, the day after the story was posted.  Apparently it was a really long weekend.