Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Maniacal Medicine: Is the FDA silencing journalists?

Many prominent organizations and agencies like the FDA release information with an embargo on it. In other words, news organizations will agree not to publish this information until a certain date. This gives the journalists time to research and write their articles, so that their more detailed investigation - often a deeper perspective on a complex story - can appear at the same time as the organization's press conference.

So the FDA's new policy goes like this; you can write about FDA's new drug/medical device approval, but you can't do any outside research or ask any experts to weigh in on our decision before the embargo is lifted. The FDA wants to forbid reporters from doing any independent research and gathering opposing views. Effectively, the FDA wants journalists to not ask questions, not to seek independent experts and simply tow the FDA line like good little stenographers.

This is a drastic change - journalists customarily share the information with other experts in the field to get a more impartial perspective. These experts are are always apprised of the embargo, must agree to its terms, and fall under the same confidentiality agreement as the media organization. (read more)