Posted by Pattie on 4/25/2005 01:18:00 PM

The Rewards of Objectivity

Roche just closed its third annual International Award for Obesity Journalism. Want to know what they think is good journalism? Check out last year's winners.

Roche (surprise!)makes Xenical, which as far as I can tell is the last obesity drug on the market right now as Phen/Fen, Redux and Meridia have all been recalled and the others that are coming soon have not been approved.

Xenical has side-effects which have been dismissed as just one of those things you have to put up with in order to lose weight:

"Abdominal discomfort or pain, anxiety, arthritis, back pain, diarrhea, dizziness, earache, fatigue, fatty or oily stools, fecal urgency or incontinence, flu, gas with fecal discharge, gum problems, headache, increased defecation, menstrual problems, muscle pain, nausea, oily discharge, rectal discomfort or pain, respiratory tract infections, skin rash, sleep problems, tooth problems, urinary tract infections, vaginal inflammation, vomiting"

There have been reports of more severe side effects (warning, this link is not pretty).

I'm thinking of putting together an expose on diet drugs and specifically on the problems associated with Xenical, publishing it on the Internet and then submitting it to their 4th annual award. What do you think?

Oh yeah, and if you want to know why they are willing to give journalists nearly US$10,000 a year, well, check these out...

Can Obesity Fatten Your Wallet?

Investing in Controlling Obesity

Fat Profits

Seriously, I don't believe in objectivity in journalism. It cannot exist as long as human beings compose the stories. I think it is a ruse to spend time trying to be objective. The lack of objectivity in so called "obesity journalism" isn't the problem.

The problem is that no one owns up to their biases. The only way a media consumer can critically assess what is being consumed is to have the background information as well as the foreground information. Biases show up in what is omitted more often than in what is said. Things can look fair and balanced until one sees the larger picture.

My favorite scene in the movie, Contact (with Jodie Foster) is towards the end when after Ellie has been raked over the coals by a government inquisition. Rachel Constantine is the president's chief of staff and Michael Kitz was the president's secretary of defense who resigned in order to head the inquisition. The conversation:

Rachel Constantine: I assume you read the confidential findings report from the investigating committee.
Michael Kitz: I flipped through it.
Rachel Constantine: I was especially interested in the section on Arroway's video unit. The one that recorded the static?
Michael Kitz: Continue.
Rachel Constantine: The fact that it recorded static isn't what interests me.
Michael Kitz: [pauses] Continue.
Rachel Constantine: What interests me is that it recorded approximately eighteen hours of it.
Michael Kitz: That is interesting, isn't it?

Ellie claimed that she left earth for 18 hours. She had no proof of where she had been or what she had seen because her video unit failed to record what she saw. But the little detail of 18 hours of tape changed everything. Keeping that small piece of information quiet covered up a great deal.

Obesity journalism rewarded by the manufacturer of obesity medication leaves one wondering about a lot. Or it should.