This is why I despise media of all types, and usually believe the opposite of almost any newspaper story I see:

A boy at a local school was diagnosed with TB at this hospital, and this morning the ID team did a presentation about TB in kids. The boy was on our team’s list briefly. He had fullblown TB: hemoptysis, night sweats, weight loss, cavitary lesions on xray and CT, massively positive PPD. So, the school officials were informed, and are testing some 200 kids that were in close contact with this boy, and planning to repeat testing in a few months, just to make sure. (The case is curious because no source of infection can be found: no travel, no immigrants, no sick/risky contacts, etc.)

This being a relatively small, slow town, this made the news. The presenters this morning showed some transcripts off the local tv news broadcast. These included statements such as the following: “The children will be tested because of concern that the boy has TB, although he has not tested positive for it.” [The very first test done on admission was a PPD, which is what I hope laymen think of when they think of TB testing.] “Fortunately there is a vaccine for this in the US, so hopefully the schoolchildren are immune.” [?!?!?! BCG vaccine is used in third-world countries, not in the US, and provides very weak and unreliable immunity.] And then a health official was quoted as saying the scare was unnecessary, because of the vaccine! The ID team said they had talked to this official, and he vehemently denied ever saying anything that could possibly be construed this way. I sure hope not, otherwise he deserves to be fired!

So here we have a simple medical case, with dozens of experts easily available; a case which has a significant impact on members of the community, on which they deserve to be accurately informed. And here the news people can’t get the basic facts straight. They are seriously misinforming the community, and, according to the ID team, even after they called the news station and protested the story, the same tape was run again and again.

I have had experience with this before, when my father’s hospital was involved in a scandal, which the local paper blew up to look way worse than it really was, without regard to basic, verifiable facts. Also when homeschoolers in the area have been interviewed for “human interest” articles, and our statements taken out of context and twisted; this, I hope, was unintentional, due to pure lack of comprehension. But the scandal was definitely malicious (local politics, long story). Not to mention during the Bush re-election campaign, which we were heavily involved in, the twisted stories run about the local activities, or the weird representation of local conservative candidates whom my family knows personally. Also, there’s the bird flu deal, where from what I’ve heard inside the medical community, the media invariably picked the most panicky, scare-mongering authority they could, to whom they gave the most airtime, rather than giving decent inclusion to the calmer opinions.

Thus, whether out of evil intent, or pure stupidity/laziness/lack of adequate investigation, almost every time I’ve had personal knowledge of a news story, the media has it wrong. If you haven’t experienced this yet, just wait till you’re on the inside of a news story, and see how messed up it gets by the time it’s been run through the media filter and fed to the public. There is no reason to believe anything you see on TV, or in the newspapers. I do believe conservative media websites slightly more, when they aren’t just quoting the mainstream press, because I give them credit for a little more integrity, and for the inadequate reason that I like their bias – but I know it exists. Never trust newspeople completely.