I haven’t hid my feelings about The Huffington Post‘s track record when it comes to responsible science reporting, and earlier in the week, I speculated as to what effect AOL’s purchase of the site would have on the combined entity’s future coverage. (As part of the deal, Arianna Huffington will assume editorial control of AOL news operations.)
If today’s HuffPo story by David Kirby is any indication, the site will continue to run misleading and inaccurate stories about vaccines and their supposed connection to autism. Kirby is a more felicitous and intelligent writer than many of the site’s other contributors, but his conclusions are no less irresponsible or off-base. Earlier today, I unpacked a handful of the problems with Kirby’s effort in a Scientific American guest blog.
Incredibly, as Matthew Herper details in Forbes*, Kirby’s story underwent what Alana B. Elias Kornfeld, Huffington Post‘s Senior Health Editor, describes as a vetting process by a newly installed Medical Review Board. “Kirby’s piece doesn’t say that there is an autism link for sure, but rather that the jury’s still out,” Kornfeld told Harper. That’s a little bit like my writing a piece speculating about how aspirin may cause brain cancer: Even if I don’t come out and say it outright, I’ve planted the fear into people’s heads…and once a panic is unleashed, it can be awfully hard to control.
* Fixed February 12 to correct misspelling of Matthew Herper’s name.