Monday, October 15, 2012

Media's Self-Censoring

A few years during a Wisconsin Public Radio pledge drive, the NPR Ombudsperson made a pitch about NPR and its affiliates being the only place you could hear uncensored news.

I wrote to her and provided some examples of WPR not reporting on various problems with animal care and use at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She told me that self-censorship of news at university-based stations was a problem NPR was aware of but had not addressed. She said that she too had seen such censorship at her own university's NPR station.

Matter-of-factly, here in Madison, its a rare occurrence for either the Wisconsin State Journal or Wisconsin Public Radio to cover stories that are potentially embarrassing to the university.

This is understandable since the paper's and the radio's senior staff are neighbors of university senior staff; they run in the same circles to some degree. I remember an interview morning talk show host Joy Cardin did with Richard Davidson. She mentioned that they were very close neighbors. There was no way she could have talked to him about his meditation-compassion-I-know-the-Dalai-Lama schtick and then asked him about his involvement in burning out the emotion centers of young fearful monkeys' brains. You just don't ask your neighbor something like that when your kids play together.

Likewise, the Wisconsin State Journal has failed to meet its responsibility to meaningfully report on matters that could impact the health of everyone in Madison, and potentially, everyone on the planet. They have been reluctant to do this because UW-Madison vivisector Yoshihiro Kawaoka is promoted by the university public relations department as a jet-setting rock star among scientists. It just wouldn't do to tell locals that senior scientists continue to worry publicly that his influenza research and research like his has the potential to trigger the most deadly global pandemic ever. No, this isn't the sort of thing you mention about your neighbor or the institution that promotes his work. Instead you smooth things over and downplay the international debate. Or you just don't mention it at all.

Anyway, here's an article and links to a collection of abstracts of recent opinions that you won't hear about on WPR or read about in the Wisconsin State Journal.
Experts ponder H5N1 research moratorium issues

Lisa Schnirring * CIDRAP Staff Writer

Oct 9, 2012 (CIDRAP News) – The moratorium on research leading to more-transmissible H5N1 avian influenza viruses, originally set for 60 days, has remained in place for 8 months without a clear end in sight, but a series of commentaries in mBio today from experts familiar with the issues offers some clues for possible next steps.

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