Has Trib reporter Hawthorne Joined the Ranks of Jenny McCarthy?

This week the FDA and EPA announced they had evaluated 110 published, peer-reviewed studies and concluded that pregnant women need to eat 4 times as much seafood as they currently do in order to realize the important nutrition benefits. This comes in the wake of the USDAs review of 37 studies that informed the Dietary Guidelines, which concluded, the benefits of consuming seafood far outweigh the risks, even for pregnant women.

Then, Chicago Tribune reporter Michael Hawthorne, a long-time mercury in seafood fearmonger, wrote about the announcement. Buuuuuut, his lead didnt quite match the news. In fact, his first sentence did not mention the fact that the FDAs new advice encourages women to eat four times as much seafood as they currently do. It did however mention that some fish contain high levels of brain-damaging mercury.

Really, Michael? Thats the lead?

A review of 110 studies shows pregnant women need to eat more seafood and the FDA/EPA begins encouraging women to do so and thats your lead? Odd how that wasnt the lead in the LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, Time or Health Day or any of the other several hundred stories written on this subject.

That kind of reporting reminds me of vaccines-cause-autism spokeswoman Jenny McCarthy. In the face of overwhelming evidence of a dramatic change in the scientific narrative, still fearmongers cling to one-off studies and antiquated rhetoric because sticking to old assertions means they dont have to say they were wrong. Or in the case of Hawthorne they dont have to say that their sources, their cronies, their buddies are misguided, frothing activists and not level-headed scientists who let the facts dictate their conclusions.

Hawthorne took to twitter yesterday to note that, Mercury levels drop in women while fish consumption remains level. Suggests women making smarter choices. This activist talking point spouted by the supposedly impartial journalist begs the question; did he even read the FDA/EPA report? Consumption remains level,thats the real problem. Hello? The problem isnt the mercury levels. The report says pregnant women eat only 1.8 ounces of seafood a week and they need to quadruple that. The low consumption level is keeping pregnant women from getting all the benefits of seafood because again quoting the ummmm USDA (you may have heard of them), the benefits of consuming seafood far outweigh the risks, even for pregnant women.

Hawthorne writes 173 words before easing in this quote, Its become clearer and clearer that there are significant benefits (from eating seafood) in terms of health and development for the fetus and young children, Stephen Ostroff, the FDAs acting chief scientist, said during a conference call with reporters. There are so many women that are missing out on the benefits.

Burying the lead anyone?

True journalists report the facts. Fact; the FDAs new draft guidance is a ground breaking shift from its outdated pervious message and it’s one backed up by an avalanche of independent, peer-reviewed science. But instead of simply reporting that, Hawthorns juvenile refusal to embrace this current and important reality, a la Jenny McCarthy, leaves him looking petulant and obsessive.

The following is a quote from a column in The Nation, about a year ago, focused on the media coverage McCarthy receives but if you didnt know that they could have been talking about Hawthorne a day ago:

  • False equivalency is one of journalisms great pitfalls, and in an effort to achieve balance, reporters often obscure the truth.

The only difference is Hawthorne doesnt appear to seek misguided balance but rather the ability to say he was right, in the face of overwhelming evidence he and his most common sources are wrong.