Category Archives: media democracy

The metered Internet threat to innovation & access to information

Remember the early days of mass public access to the world wide web? Back when AOL was king, noisy dial-up modems were par for the course and having any graphics on a webpage was super-fancy? Remember in 1993 or so, when you’d connect to the Internet, download your email as quickly as possible, disconnect to read the text and write your responses, then connect and send your pre-written emails as quickly as possible? It’s the type of scenario today’s kids would find baffling and hilarious: clunky, unwieldy, expensive, and certainly not one that encouraged increased use of the technology.

Well, everything old is new again. The CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission), Canada’s telecom regulator that brought us nearly-neutrality rules just a year ago, recently issued a decision on “usage based billing” or UBB (Telecom Decision CRTC 2011-44). And the meter on your Internet may well be back on – albeit measuring bytes rather than seconds this time around.

A lot of reaction to this decision is coming out, and more analysis will follow in the coming days, I’m sure. OpenMedia.ca has a petition up, Canadian news outlets are covering the decision (and reaction) widely, and online content providers are understandably furious.

I haven’t gotten a chance to comb through the decision in detail yet, and I have to take a couple of boys to the science museum shortly, but there are a few points I want to make right off the bat. I may be back later to comment further or clarify these quick notes.

1) UBB is not the same issue as net neutrality (unless #2 applies)

The reason usage-based billing sounds so appealing, so normal,  is that we do pay per item/metered amount for a lot of goods. We pay for utilities like hydro (hydro = electricity for you non-Canadians) on a metered basis, and many areas also meter water (although that is not without controversy). Frankly, the UBB idea is a brilliant example of big ISPs hearing the pro-neutrality argument that Internet should be treated like a utility and running with that concept, turning it to their advantage.

A lot of the same folk who were up in arms over net neutrality are upset about this UBB ruling. And they have good reason to be outraged. However, in strict sense, UBB is not in contradition with net neutrality (where net neutrality = slowing down of selected content en route to the consumer). My understanding of the CRTC UBB decision is that it is supposed to be content-agnostic, and only size-based. Now, this doesn’t make a lot of sense, policy-wise, anyway (as I will discuss below), but it’s not necessairly non-neutral.

However, metered use makes sense for goods for which we have  a finite supply, not for things like information, which do not require rationing. Economically speaking, information is a non-rivalrous good, meaning that my use of the good (say, a webpage, journal article or TV show) does not in any way prevent you from also using & enjoying the same good.

I know, I know, there’s that old argument about your pipes getting clogged because your neighbours are downloading too much big stuff all the time, but frankly Canadian ISPs have been given ample opportunity to show evidence of this overload, and none has materialised. In fact, the logs we did see during the net neutrality hearings showed the exact opposite of congestion, making it clear that this is just a cash grab. (I do want to make the point, however, that even if congestion were present – and eventually it may exist if ISPs fail to invest in their infrastructure – that does not mean that the correct response is to slow down Canada’s Internet in response. Other industries are required to upgrade their infrastructure over time as needs change or parts get old and fail.)

2) UBB is a potential neutrality workaround

While I think the intent of the CRTC  is allow metering of all Internet content equally within the same subscription plan, and to do otherwise is likely a violation of the still-untested CRTC net neutrality rules, there is a lot of scope here for ISPs to provide favourable conditions for content from which they benefit.

For example, an ISP may offer special promotional “exemptions” from UBB for content offered by their parent company – dinging, say, Netflix while exempting their own online TV/movie service. This isn’t throttling content in the “pipes” or charging a toll to content providers for content delivery, it’s charging a toll to users for content access. It’s throttling the consumer’s wallet.

3) UBB is a giant threat to access to information, and to innovation

Here’s where it gets really ugly. Imagine what it would (will?) be like when we are charged by the byte for information downloaded (and possibly also uploaded?) over our connections.

No one knows how much bandwidth they’re using so they minimize use, fearing fees. AJAX is no longer an asset; it is a liability and we disconnect from continuously refreshing websites to save bandwidth. The pressure is on for online content to be as compressed as possible, hitting the art community hard. Community wireless, such as building-wide wifi in co-op housing, becomes potentially pricey and hard to control.Schoolkids are no longer encouraged to post videos from the classroom to demonstrate and share learning. Employers start to police recreational Internet use more than ever. Coffee shops and other hotspots stop offering wifi all together, making life harder for freelancers, the self-employed, students and others without official workspaces.

Fearing the bandwidth limits on their personal subscriptions, the middle-class flock to libraries to do their downloading. Libraries cannot afford this. Libraries may not be able to afford current levels of bandwidth use, if metered, particularly academic libraries or those dealing with subject areas involving rich media (art, film, music…). I cannot over-emphasize the threat to public access to information via libraries here: libraries are currently THE places in society where anyone can access the Internet. If libraries have to limit this, ration it somehow, or lose this role, it will be a tragedy both for libraries and for the public who rely on library Internet. When public Internet access is limited or closed, public access to information, and therefore public participation in democracy, is seriously impinged. With the government increasingly moving to online-only forms, information, and dialogue with the public, how responsible is it to simultaneously move to meter Internet use?

We may move backwards in time, returning to network television for entertainment. Online course reserves could be pricier for the university than those old print custom course packages. We might actually revive the fax machine?!? Why would a country want to push its population back in time, when the rest of the world is jetting ahead with innovative multimedia content and new delivery systems? Hard to say. Just dumb policy-making? The cynic in my says it could be that those making the policy stand to benefit from old media technologies and fear the threat of the new. However we may drag our feet and try to slow things down within national borders, change and innovation are going to happen – if they need to happen elsewhere first, that will happen. Maybe the CRTC needs to attend Karen Schneider’s talk at MLA?

-Greyson

ETA – Well, that didn’t take long. The decision has already been appealed. Fasten your seatbelts!

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under academic libraries, business, democracy, digitization, government information, inclusion/exclusion, Intellectual freedom, Internet, media democracy, net neutrality, privatization, public libraries, technology

Canadian DTCA Charter Challenge Indefinitely Adjourned…and a tree falls in the forest

The News

In the middle of financial turbulence, potential bankruptcy, and a storm of management changes, CanWest Global has decided to seek indefinite adjournment of their court case challenging Canadian restrictions on direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs.  In summary, CanWest was alleging that the ban on certain types of DTCA was infringing on their freedom of expression, especially since they couldn’t make money off that type of ad while media across the border in the US could. The case was seen as a landmark case as it was a challenge to existing law under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (a constitutional law case, for non-Canadians reading this), and thus would set new Canadian constitutional precedent.

The adjournment request came right at the 11th hour, since closing arguments were set to be heard June 15-19, which is to say, this past week. While CanWest can request to revive the case, it seems unlikely at this point, when the company is facing billions in debt and is working to secure major restructuring deals. It appears that CanWest may silently agree with opposing lawyer Stuart Shrybman, that the company should have pulled the plug on this “ill-conceived litigation” months ago,” and that the best option at this point is to avoid pouring more money into what is pretty much a lost cause.

So what? In short, this case has cost both CanWest and the government a lot of money since it was filed in December 2005. Current regulations on DTCA in Canada are not well enforced to begin with, and to my knowledge there’s not much indication that this is changing. However, by not opening the floodgates wider, we may be able to avoid even more expense and needless adverse side effects (such as Vioxx related deaths) that appear to be encouraged by DTCA.

Didn’t hear about this?  I’m not surprised. Somehow nobody else has either.

The News (not)  in the News

This story has been weirdly absent from the media.  And by media, I mean practically everybody.  When I heard about CanWest dropping this case, I immediately ran to my web browser and started searching for early news coverage…nothing.   A week later…still nothing in the mainstream news sources.

The medical journals? One article in the faithful CMAJ, which has offered ongoing coverage of this trial and whose parent organization, the Canadian Medical Assoiaition, has an official position statement opposing “Brand-specific direct-to-consumer advertisements, such as those permitted in the United States.”

Okay, well, I figured that perhaps this was an example of the failures of traditional media.  Maybe media companies aren’t nimble enough to catch this story in a timely manner; maybe the industry carries an inherent bias against reporting on what is essentially a failure (of the cut-your-losses type) of a fellow media behemoth.

The bloggers, though – the bloggers will have lots to say about this, right?  The bloggers are the new media, right?  Citizen journalism! Media democracy! They are us! We are on the ground, everywhere, reporting on the real issues in our spare time, without budgets to support travel expenses or copyediting, and hoping our cameras are not confiscated by the police and our tweets are not blocked.

So far I have found one lonely blog post about this, from the magazine marketing industry, which I’m sure has been watching CanWest’s case avidly, as a CanWest win would potentially open up a whole new world of direct-to-consumer drug ads, with accompanying revenue stream, for magazines as well as television channels. That post did link to one other blog, from a magazine marketing magazine.

But basically, this adjournment has been a tree falling in the forest.  Why?  Is it just tough to compete in the health news arena the week the WHO declares a pandemic? Perhaps, but the possibility of federal regulations on trans-fats  is getting press. Do we feel bad for CanWest, and not want to slag them more? I dunno, we seem to have an appetite for the details of the restructuring /fall of the Asper family empire. Is DTCA just a boring topic? Well, discussions of the topic can certainly be acronym-heavy, but there has been plenty of coverage in the media (even in CanWest outlets) about the recent Plos ONE article, “Twelve Years’ Experience with Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs in Canada: A Cautionary Tale.”

What’s the deal?  I don’t get it.

My government went to court against the largest media entity in the country, basically won, and no one is in the forest to hear the media giant fall!

For previous posts on direct-to-consumer advertising, see: dtca part 1, and part 2.

Disclosure: I work with authors in the PloS ONE article cited above, including on DTCA-related topics.

ETA – Apparently I (and Google) missed The Tyee’s Hook blog coverage of this on June 12. It’s here, if you’re interested.  Of note in this article is the statement, “a spokesperson for Canwest says the company did not ask for the adjournment and plans to continue the case in the fall” — which is entirely possible but not something I have seen/read elswehere. Anyone reading this have more info on CanWest’s official stance on this?

1 Comment

Filed under government, Health, media democracy, privatization

About that blank media levy

This weekend my 6 year old and I made a mix CD of his favourite music. We’re swapping it with a handful of other families we know who value music that is palatable to both kids and parents. This type of thing is how we discovered a mutual parent-child love the pop-punk band ALL (we subsequently bought 3 CDs) and the fact that a young soprano is perfect for singing backup to “Video Killed the Radio Star” (we have not bought, nor are we likely to buy, any Buggles CDs).

Unlike the mix tapes I made in junior high in the US, trying to record Dee-Lite and Billy Joel off the radio without getting too much of the announcer’s voice overlapping the end of the tracks, these CDs are more or less legal, thanks to the blank media levy we have in Canada. The same blank media levy that, as I learned at London Drugs this weekend, just increased by $.08 to $.29/CD, making the right to copy music more expensive than the actual media that was conferring the right. (Okay, apparently it’s actually called the Private Copying Levy, but I’ve always heard it called the blank media levy in casual conversation, so for the purposes of this post that’s what I’m sticking to.)

Sheltered USAmerican that I was, I had never heard of blank media levies before coming to library school in Canada. When I learned about this policy tool – and I wish I could remember what class this was in – I was amazed that someone would try to think of a way to make media copying for not-for-profit use legal rather than just ignore the fact that it happens and/or selectively prosecute to try to make an example of people who are doing what everyone was doing.

How Canadian! Sort of resigning to real life, accepting the futility of trying to enforce absolutist laws, and instead attempting to somehow apologize to those whose rights may have been infringed. Back in the US we just denied that regular people broke the laws and then villified those select terrible rotten apples who did nasty things like download copyrighted music.

Of course, there are problems with the blank media levy. For example, a lot of digital media is used for purposes other than duplication of copyrighted materials. It can be argued that private copying – e.g., backups – should perhaps be legal with no additional fees. Small artists who distribute their own music are generally under- or un-represented in the Canadian Private Copyright Collective, and thus get less than their fair share of the levy.

The levy is clearly an imperfect tool.  But a kind of interesting one, in my opinion, when compared with the blunt axe wielded by the RIAA in the US.

With all the hullabaloo about C-61 last year, I was surprised that a hike of CD levy went so under the radar. Yes, Michael Geist and perhaps a few other bloggers mentioned it, but I didn’t really notice, and neither did mainstream media outlets, to my knowledge.

Perhaps because I was so stricken with the sheer, well, difference of the levy approach, when contrasted with the lawsuit approach, I was disappointed that so few people mentioned the existing levy when discussing copyright reform last year. I admit that I wasn’t even really clear on whether C-61, if passed, would even get rid of the levy, or just add axe to tax.

People here seem not to care much for the blank media levy, and certainly no one in my circles has been discussing extending it to, say, MP3 players, as an alternative to DMCA-style copyright reform. Are we just following CRIA’s example, or is there something else going on that is encouraging copyright folk to ditch rather than reform the levy system? Because, when compared with suing teenaged kids and single mums, the levy seems like a viable option somehow. Perhaps setting up the levy vs. DMCA is a false dichotomy. But will the US let Canada get away with neither? I’m not convinced.

-Greyson

Leave a comment

Filed under copyright, digitization, IP, media democracy

YouTube videos on CanWest info issues

I don’t have a television, but I do love to watch stuff on my computer.  Back in the last millenium, when I did have a TV, I didn’t have cable anyway, so I am easily impressed with the amazing diversity of media to which I have access via the Internet.

As you may have noticed from previous blog posts, I am a fan of YouTube and similar video sharing sites. I love them.  I love just searching for a video to explain science concepts that we can’t demo in our kitchen (like that whole beluga whale tail-first-birth so it doesn’t drown thing- so cool!) to the kid. I really appreciate being able to watch various political debates (back in 2000 I couldn’t watch the US presidential debates b/c I couldn’t find anywhere with a TV to watch them), or just see someone’s version of the highlights if I don’t really want to watch the whole thing. I admit ot using short online videos in my teaching quite frequently.

And I absolutely adore the way people are using this medium for activism.

Of course there’s the best ever super simple explaination of net neutrality from the Save the Internet coalition. (Old news in web-time, I know, but still relevant.) Just this week, however, two different new activist videos about CanWest came through my inboxes. Since I’ve been struggling to demonstrate the ironic connection between CanWest’s attempts to muzzle others’ free expression and the company’s fight to be allowed the “free expression” to sell ad airtime to drug companies, I thought I’d highlight both new videos here.

1)Media Blackout: CanWest Global Attacks Drug Ad Laws

This came to me via a colleague’s email. Rob Wipond connects ad revenue in our corporate media with the role of the media as our major source of health information (and historic firings of journalists who deviated from media/advertiser party lines). Not content to merely point out the misleading nature and accompanying health risks of drug advertising, he calls out drug industry-funded health advocacy groups.

2) Canwest Media Bully

I saw this one in my RSS feed from the We Read Banned Books blog.  WorkingTV covers and explains the “SLAPP” lawsuit over the Vancouver Sun parody printed June 2007, making connnections between media concentration and lack of tolerance for diversity of viewpoints.

Tara over at We Read Banned Books commented:

I’m excited to see old school activists start to social media effectively.  This video feels especially appropriate as they are standing up to a mainstream media conglomerate, like CanWest and the Vancouver Sun.  I think this video has much broader appeal than a didactic pamphlet written in Times New Roman 10 point font.  My only critique is the seriously corny folk song at the end

I couldn’t agree more (sorry David Rovics – I am quite fond of you, personally). While neither of these  videos is as slick as the net neutrality clip linked above, they are FAR more engaging than a flyer handed to me on a street corner, another mass email sitting in my inbox, or a speaker that I probably can’t go to see because I can’t get childcare for yet another meeting. And I’m one of the old skool print media lovers, right? (see: no TV)

Call me dumbed-down if you wish, but keep on making these engaging videos!  I love them!

-Greyson

2 Comments

Filed under censorship, digitization, Health, Intellectual freedom, media democracy, net neutrality, Other blogs, publishing, technology, tips and tools

Canadian Election Advocacy Resources

While there’s been a lot of coverage of the US Election (in particular the, er, interesting choice of an apparent wannabee book-banner as Republican VP nominee), the relatively un-showy and non-flashy Canadian Federal Elections aren’t getting much press in the LIS blogosphere. October 14, 2008 is not just the first Open Access Day, it’s also Election Day for us Canucks!

If you are Canadian in any way, shape or form, you can do something to influence the political agenda in this country.  Telecom and information issues are not really making the headlines in the campaign coverage, even though Canadians clearly care about issues such as copyright and net neutrality in 2008.

Here are a couple of resources to help you remind the candidates that we care about library and information issues, to push the parties to make committments, and to advocate for the kind of change you want to see.

MP Contact Info & Suggested Questions

1) How to contact your candidates

On the Elections Canada FAQ page , find your electoral dictrict by typing in your postal code.

On the lower right-hand side, under “Candidates,” click on:

Who are the candidates in my electoral district?

On the upper right-hand side, under “Related Questions,” click on:

How do I contact the candidates in my electoral district?

This will give you at least the phone number of your candidates.  I know, email is better, but I haven’t found an email directory of all the candidates yet, so the best thing I know to do is google “Firstname Lastname.”

If you know of a better source, please let me know in the comments!

2) What to ask/tell your Candidates?
Obviously, you should ask about anything you find important.  However, two sources that I know of have compiled collections of issues and talking points you may find useful:

  1. The CLA’s 2008 Election Campaign Kit (link to pdf)
  2. The Campaign for Democratic Media‘s question list “Where do the candidates stand on democratic media?” (link to pdf)

The CLA kit offers general election advocacy tips and focuses on 9 issues: Copyright, Library Book Rate, Removal of the GST on Reading Materials, Library services for Canadians with print disabilities,The Community Access Program, Public Library Infrastructure, Support for libraries through Library and Archives Canada, National Literacy Initiatives & Net Neutrality.

The CDM list offers a brief summary of the issues and suggested specific questions to ask candidates about: Net Neutrality, Cultural Funding, Canadian Ownership of Broadcasting & Telecommunications, The CBC, Local News, Employment Equity, Concentrations of Media Ownership, Community Media, Appointments to Federal Boards and Commissions, & Broadcast and Telecom Regulation.

If you get answers from any MP Candidates avout the CDM questions, post them, please! I’m sure the CDM would like to collect responses.

Thanks to the tireless folk at CLA and CDM for making it easier for the rest of us to make a difference!

-Greyson

1 Comment

Filed under government, media democracy, The Profession, tips and tools

Tomorrow’s History & the Role of Public Libraries

I’ve been thinking about digitization and history; specifically the trusim that history is written by the victors (aka the privileged), and what that means for our current era.

With literacy and war-conquests-slash-oppression on the part of literate groups, orality became devalued as “official” history in most of the mainstream, dominant, Western societies.  Non-literate or illiterate people and groups have largely either been written out or written *about* in what we now deem to be literature and history. (Please forgive my rushed-through and simplistic history of the conquests of literacy-based-culture here…this is just the context part of the post!) With mass printing, the privilege bar to produce, distribute and preserve was reinforced, perhaps nudged a bit, right?  Certainly by the 20th century just writing something down was rarely enough to incorporate it into official narratives of “history”; the writing had to be adjudicated and then reproduced by a professional publisher, preserved by an archivist, or otherwise selected by someone with societal power.

I went to undergrad in 1994.  It was a heady, exciting time, especially if you worked in a library, as I was fortunate enough to do.  The Internet had just gone public!  Netscape and Mozilla were battling it out!  Web 2.0 was already being foreshadowed by innovators like Crayon (remember CraYoN – Create your own newspaper?  Early mashup, back in ‘95!). All the street-level activists in my circles were xeroxing radical zines on their temp job office photocopiers, and the Internet was going to democratize the world! Anyone could publish their work and reach the whole world! Well, anyone in the portions of the world that had electricity at least.  Or at least the literate portions of the world that had electricity…

< – -time warp here- – >

Now, we have these amazing Open Access repositories forming, and we have increasing numbers of people creating and sharing content online. I’m particularly excited about and interested in the community-based archiving projects that are popping up. (**Note to self: write a post about some of these cool projects soon**)

BUT, I have a big concern. I think we’ve all outgrown the “the Internet is going to democratize the world!” phase by now (yes? no?), but I don’t think we’re paying adequate attention to the fact that this migration of “scholarship” and preservation – basically the bulk of what will be tomorrow’s “history”  – is reinforcing the exclusive nature of historical preservation.

We are beginning to see documentation of the same type of hierarchical dynamics in online content generation as we do in printed matter.  I’ve seen recent scholarship focused on the male-female gender gap both in scholarly self-archiving and in creative digital media sharing.

I know most of us aren’t purposefully torching the libraries of our enemies and competitors.  And I don’t want to question the very sensible move of scholarly communication into online, open access format.  But I would like to talk with more folk about how we can hark back to our idealistic 1994 mentality and regain those ideals, if not the naïveté, relating to the potential that digitization holds for the whole of society.

Academic libraries are working fast and furious toward digitally archiving their institutions’ scholarly output.  I think there’s a place for public libraries to serve an organizing function in the community in terms of creating public history. A public history project, perhaps.

Public History Project…I kind of like the sound of that.  Too bad the acronym’s already pretty much “taken.”  Maybe if we slap a “Canadian” on the front end or some such…

Of course, it’s easy to spout off about, and much harder to actually figure out the nuts & bolts: How to you ensure broad community representation?  What do you do with communities that don’t want to participate? How do you select what is of long-term value – or do you at all?  Is that up to the communities themselves, perhaps?  Do you allocate more space to groups under-represented in formal histories and scholarly communities?  Is there content that is unacceptable? What about illegal stuff?  Who’s responsible for the maintenance?  And where does all of this…stuff…reside, anyway?  What formats can reasonably be accepted and preserved? Should the government be involved in this?  What about private funding?  How do you keep things impartial?  Should you strive to keep things impartial?

Despite all of this chaos in my mind about the details, I do think that public libraries are uniquely suited to facilitate a public history project: something technically based on open source software, and developed in coalition with community groups.  And, frankly, perhaps in collaboration with academic libraries, who are doing TONS of work already getting Institutional Repositories up and running.

What are your thoughts?

-Greyson

2 Comments

Filed under academic libraries, archives, censorship, community development, digitization, gender, globalization, media democracy, OA, preservation, public libraries, publishing, racism, technology

Irresponsible health news reporting redux: the CBC on bone density & breast cancer

Can you stand to hear me kvetch again about irresponsible health reporting?

Today it’s the CBC (among others), whose health headline screams: Bone density level may act as predictor of breast cancer

It’s one of those articles without a byline, and the nameless reporter who penned this brief article clearly has no idea what they are talking about. But I guess fearmongering is always a good story-seller, so they wrote an article anyway.  They must have been in quite a rush, however, as not only is this yet another article written based only on a press release about a forthcoming article, the press release isn’t even quoted correctly.

The article begins:

In addition to mammograms, ultrasounds and blood tests, doctors may have a new tool in their breast-cancer-screening arsenal.

Off to a bad start. Bone density testing is not used like a mammogram or ultrasound, both of which are used to detect masses that may indicate cancer. I mean they’re all imaging tests, but there is nothing in bone densiometry that can indicate a suspicious lump in your breast for investigation. It seems that the article in question here is about screening for risk factors, which one could liken to blood tests if you’re talking about the small minority of breast cancers that are linked to the BRCA 1 & 2 gene variations found in 0.1-0.6% of the US population…but even that is a stretch.

The article about the unseen-article states that:

In the study, 10,000 post-menopausal women with an average age of 63 were studied in 40 health centres in the U.S.

without mentioning the critical context that this study was done on Women’s Health Initiative participants and is part of the WHI study backlash/follow up wave we are currently riding.

The CBC delivers the article punchline that:

Higher bone mineral density, which is governed by hormonal levels in a woman’s body throughout her lifetime, may lead to a higher a risk of breast cancer.

Without mentioning the CRITICAL fact that the study was funded by the Eli Lilly Company.  Lilly, incidentally, makes Raloxifene (aka Evista, Keoxifene), a newish bone density drug that – unlike the older bisphosphonate class of bone density drugs – may reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Wait, you mean to say that a study that says that high bone density could be linked with higher risk of breast cancer, funded by a company making a drug that builds bone density while allegedly decreasing risk of breast cancer might be victim of conflict of interest? Crazy.  </sarcasm>  Of course, we can’t evaluate for ourselves because the full article isn’t available…but we’ll get to that later.

Raloxifine, of course, has been struggling to gain market share against the older bisphosphonates in the face of a black box warning (for Increased Risk of Venous Thromboembolism and Death from Stroke) and multiple FDA warning letters for direct-to-consumer advertising practices in violation of federal guidelines (and if you know how rare it is for the FDA to actually send these letters, you know these must be rather egregious violations!). Not hard to imagine that the maker of such a drug might wish to have some studies encourage new prescriptions.

It would have been nice – ethical even – to have some context for this article’s findings: not only the study’s funding source, but also an idea of how prevalent the problems of osteoporosis, breast cancer, and cardiovascular disease are for postmenopausal women.  Want it?  It’s not hard to find (pdf here). Almost 39% of deaths among women 65+ in the US are due to heart disease or stroke.  19.3% are due to all cancers combined.  1.8% are due to unintentional injuries, and even if you attributed every single pneumonia death to a fracture and hospitalization (common but certainly not the only way to die of pneumonia) that only adds an additional 1.6% of all total deaths.  While personal and family medical specifics make a lot of difference in terms of the weight given to risk factors, it’s a no-brainer that cardiovascular events should be a bigger concern than bone fractures as far as preventable deaths in postmenopausal women.  It’s not rocket science here; I’m a librarian not a doctor.  Finding this info took only a mere Google search, not even a single subscription database.  A health journalist should be able to provide this context too.

Finally, in case you were a CBC reader who happened to be health literate enough to question the, er, thoroughness, of the news clip and wanted to go to the full article to read it, the CBC includes a final sentence:

The study is published in the July 28 issue of Cancer.

This would be quite helpful, were there a July 28 issue of the journal Cancer. However, Cancer is published on the 1 and 15 of each month.  As of today there are not any “early view” articles released on the 28 either, nor does this article appear in either the July 15 or August 1 issue. Way to fact check, CBC.

(For those who are interested in the actual study, please note that this article should be found in the September 1 issue of Cancer.)

A better example of quick but accurate health reporting from a pre-publication press release can be found here. CBC, please take note. You’re supposedly the national public broadcaster.  I expect better.

Is it too impolitic for me to say that I hope the good folk over at Media Doctor let the CBC have it over stuff like this?  Hmm…perhaps what I ought to be doing is talking with fellow health librarians about how we can better reach our health beat journalists in order to make it easier for them to write accurate articles. Okay, okay, I’ll do that.  But I’m still gonna kvetch about irresponsible reporting in the meantime.

-Greyson

3 Comments

Filed under gender, Health, media democracy, publishing