See bottom of post for update.
On Tuesday, TLC posted “Why shouldn’t we vaccinate our children,” which was one of the all-time worst pieces written about vaccines. It had outright falsehoods and oodles of misleading information. It was so bad, in fact, that I briefly wondered if it might be a deliberate effort to point out the lunacy of anti-vaccine activists. (It wasn’t.) That afternoon, I posted a sentence-by-sentence breakdown of one of the piece’s six sections, titled “Vaccines May or May Not Have a Link to Autism.”
The following day, the piece was updated — and several of my criticisms were addressed, although not in a manner that made any significant difference. At that point, all of the reader comments that had been added to the piece were disappeared.
Last night, Ken Reibel of Autism News Beat emailed me last night to report that he had heard from someone in the PR department of Discovery Communications, the company that owns TLC, and that the piece was going to be taken down. Sure enough. as of this morning, the piece’s original URL – http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/family/why-shouldnt-we-vaccinate-our-children.htm — is redirected to TLC’s “How Stuff Works” homepage.
In general, I’m not a big fan of simply vanishing stories, but this was a good move: TLC’s site doesn’t lend itself to corrections or clarifications, and there was no real way to “correct” this story anyway. I do think TLC’s readers deserve to know how, exactly, this happened: Is there any vetting process before pieces about serious public health issues get posted? If this level of misinformation can appear in a topic that has been written about again and again and again, does that mean the quality control on all of TLC’s coverage is this slipshod?
Meanwhile, two days after Chicago Sun-Times editor-in-chief Jim Kirk said that his paper’s endorsement of the annual Generation One/AutismOne quackfest was “incorrect,” that endorsement still appears at the bottom of the paper’s fawning Q&A with Jenny McCarthy. I reached out to Kirk yesterday, and again this morning, and haven’t heard anything back.
UPDATE: “The Sun-Times proudly supports Generation Rescue and Autism One” has finally be changed; the tag line on the bottom of the piece now reads, “TheSun-Times is a media sponsor of the event.”
TLC’s vaccine misinformation piece vanishes into the ether. Do they owe readers an explanation? (Also: Chicago Sun-Times endorsement of anti-vaccine conference remains online.) UPDATED by PLOS Blogs Network, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.