Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mixed Feelings About My Letter to the Editor in the Vancouver Sun

I suppose I should feel happy that my opinion has been acknowledged.

The Vancouver Sun published a letter of mine yesterday.

I'd like to thank The Sun for its refreshingly rational, science-based coverage of efforts to bring H1N1-prevention measures to the public. There is much confusion afoot about how best to protect ourselves and you appear to have made an effort to follow facts supporting what is most likely to be efficacious and what the realistic drawbacks are.

A popular weekly paper in Vancouver has taken to promoting practices that are demonstrably dangerous to public health, including homeopathy and vaccination denial. It's good to see that someone in the business of spreading the news is doing so responsibly.
No big secret if you've been reading along here, the "popular weekly paper" I am refering to is the Georgia Straight.  I spent a fair bit of time devoted to slagging it's poor policies over a month ago.  And guess what?  This particular letter... was sent to the Sun back then.

In my mind, putting off publishing this letter until now kind of mis-represents the opinion I was expressing.  First off, despite my reference to the Straight's homeopathy articles, it is referring to a circumstance whose immediacy is stale, and no longer in quickly available public evidence.  (Though for the record, here's the original article.)   It is also worth noting that the Straight later published an article with considerably better science. 

But of more concern is the second issue; that in the interim, the Sun could themselves have published any number of complete bullshit articles.  A cursory glance at relevant headlines... looks as though their record is probably reasonably good.  So I'm probably not inadvertently giving my implicit approval of a heap of bad information.  But the point is, I could have been.

I thought there was a policy of checking sources - calling me up at the phone number they requied me to include - just to make sure I am who I claim, and that I do stand behind the opinion voiced in my letter?  If they had, they would have received my consent - or, at worst, a request to update my opinion to reflect the changes of circumstance; specifically the on-set of flu-season; over a dozen H1N1 deaths in B.C.; and, FSM-forbid, the on-going representation of fact by the Sun.  But instead they sullied it with a fractional mis-representation, reducing the chances of me giving them a vote of support in the future.

This is really a matter of principle more than any real grievance.  I'm annoyed with it at the moment, and wanted to point out the minor misrepresentation somewhere for the record.  I'll cool off in the next day or two.


On a side note: Through October I made a point of devoting most of my skeptical writing to the first month of Skeptic North.  But now that's behind us.  I'll be shifting my attention back in favour of this blog - without ignoring Skeptic North - for the next while.  Eventually I'll zero in on the appropriate balance between the two.

I already have singled out the next well deserved target of my ire.  That'll probably fall directly under my fire by the weekend.  I'm looking forward to not tempering my tongue again.

No comments:

Post a Comment