IS THE MEDIA YOUR SERVANT?
SECRECY IN MEDICINE is both scandalous and potentially deadly. It is as toxic as Vioxx and as reprehensible as giving non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to an expectant mother without informing her that these painkillers can cause miscarriages.
As the Vioxx and Celebrex scandal surfaced, the media leapt into action with sensational headlines and investigations focused on the role of FDA oversight. In a country that portrays itself as delivering “the finest healthcare in the world,” however, is the FDA solely to blame for these failures?
No, there is another powerhouse institution that must be held accountable: the media.
The infirmity of today’s corporate journalism is reflected by the fact that good reporters — the ones who uncover abuses by government and corporate interests — are no longer welcome in television news. Nowhere has this been more frighteningly apparent than the saga of reporters Jane Akre and Steve Wilson, two pros who revealed that rBGH, the synthetic growth hormone found in milk and other dairy products, was potentially harmful to humans.
After repeatedly refusing an order by Fox corporate attorneys to present a story more favorable to corporate advertisers (and rBGH-patent holder) Monsanto, Akre and Wilson were fired by the network. Though the story should have been a fight about journalistic ethics, NBC, CBS, and ABC would not report the story.
After Akre and Wilson won an early lawsuit against their former employers, a phalanx of Fox corporate attorneys appealed the ruling, sparing no expense in the process. Ultimately, a second judge reversed the award given to these two courageous reporters, and ordered Akre and Wilson to fork over $400,000 to Fox.
Truth be told, the lack of integrity among corporate journalists is the real reason why the rBGH additive exists in the milk supply today. It is also the reason why two-thirds of foods on supermarket shelves are laced with genetically enhanced ingredients without the knowledge of consumers. The media’s lack of attentiveness to public service is also the reason why trans-fats, damned years ago by doctors everywhere, remain in scores of products consumed by millions of children and adults. And yes, the lack of journalistic curiosity is the main reason why we only hear news about nutritional supplements when there is something negative to report.
As consumers, will we succumb to this bullying? Will we expose the corporate interests that dominate our news? Will we demand balanced reporting from the networks — and boycott their programming if they do not deliver on that basic tenet?
Just as we boast about our nation delivering the finest healthcare in the world, we often brag about “the free press” here in the United States. But in the words of Julian Whitaker, M.D., “How can we say we live in a free country when we can’t even tell the truth about nutritional supplements?” — and in the tragic case of Akre and Wilson, who are facing bankruptcy — rBGH?
It is only through the fusion of education and action that the wonders of alternative medicine can be appreciated more widely. But we must speak for it, vote for it, and demand openness. Otherwise, the forces of secrecy will win — and we all lose.
Just ask Jane Akre and Steve Wilson.