TV stations, Radio Stations and Newspapers are all in the business of attracting customers. Whilst they all present the news they do so in a way that they hope will grab your attention and keep you watching, listening or reading.
For many subjects this doesn't matter and for some it enhances the experience - 'Coming next: you won't believe what happened in the Red Sox game.'
But when it comes to health I think the news media has an obligation to ensure that the headlines, crawl lines or whatever they call them, do not distort the message.
This week there was news of yet another study that found no link between the measles vaccine and autism. eg. the AP news report:
New research further debunks any link between measles vaccine and autism, work that comes as the nation is experiencing a surge in measles cases fueled by children left unvaccinated.
This science story was picked up by most news outlets as an item that would be of interest to their readership. A quick google news search suggests over 300 articles in the last couple of days. But, bearing in mind that many more people scan the headline than will read the article, let's look at some of the headlines.
Autism and measles vaccine: no link found -- again
Study Dispels Link Between Autism and Measles Vaccine
As Seen on TV: MMR Vaccine and Autism
MMR and autism again
and the Ugly
Do Measles Vaccines Put Children At Risk For Autism?
Measles vaccine linked to autism?
All these articles are reporting the same story.