April 18th, 2011 → 10:09 pm @ Seth Mnookin
PBS’s Newshour is currently in the middle of a multi-part special on autism. The series brings Robert MacNeil back to the show for the first time in 16 years. If it turns out to be MacNeil’s swan song, it’ll be an embarrassing coda to his career.
The series kicked off with an episode titled “Autism Now: Robert MacNeil Shares Grandson Nick’s Story.” Here’s MacNeil’s introduction:
I’ve been a reporter on and off for 50 years, but I’ve never brought my family into a story, until Nick, because he moves me deeply. Also because I think his story can help people understand his form of autism and help me understand it better.
The rest of the hour-long program shows in spades why MacNeil would have been well-served by sticking to the principles that he’d followed for so long. (more…)
January 6th, 2011 → 11:42 am @ Seth Mnookin
Yesterday, the news broke that the British Medical Journal was running a series of stories that labeled Andrew Wakefield’s infamous 1998 Lancet study that posited a link between the MMR vaccine and autism an “elaborate fraud.” Dr. Fiona Godlee, the BMJ‘s editor-in-chief, compared the MMR scare to the Piltdown man hoax, in which a series of fossilized remains found near East Sussex, England were claimed to be a previously unrecognized early ancestor of humankind. (I’m hoping that has more resonance in the UK than it does in the US, because when I first read that I had absolutely no recollection of the whole Piltdown mess.)
As someone who has spent two years doing nothing but looking into various vaccine scares, I found the way these latest revelations, which were based on reporting by Brian Deer, were packaged to be problematic. (more…)