Andrew Wakefield wrong? No connection between measles vaccination and autism? Not the kind of story the mainstream media are interested in. It doesn’t matter what quality of evidence you put before the press – what matters to them is the kind of story that the evidence can be claimed to support.
Unpublished research of unknown quality that purports to show a link between vaccination and autism is seized on and promoted by the press (for example, the work of Krigsman). Published research that finds no link is ignored.
This paper (PDF) found evidence against the association of autism with either MMR or a single measles vaccine and, of the sites indexed on Google News, has been covered by Top News, Business Week, and One India. Nothing in the Mirror, Independent, Mail, Observer, Telegraph, or any of the other mainstream UK press.
In contrast, the mainstream media were all over Arthur Krigsman’s unpublished research. Ben Goldacre contrasted the media’s silence over a paper by paper by D’Souza et al with their coverage of Krigsman’s unpublished study:
Journalists like to call for “more research”: here it was, and it was ignored. Did the media neglect to cover these stories because they were bored of the story? Clearly not. Because in 2006, at exactly the same time as they were unanimously refusing even to mention these studies, they were covering an identical claim, using identical experimental methodology: “US scientists back autism link to MMR” said the Telegraph. “Scientists fear MMR link to autism” squealed the Mail.
What was this frightening new data? These scare stories were based on a poster presentation, at a conference yet to occur, on research not yet completed, by a man with a well-documented track record of announcing research that never subsequently appears in an academic journal. […]
Two years after making these claims, the study remains unpublished.
The mainstream media’s coverage of research into subjects such as this is biased to the point where the truth is distorted. Unpublished work of unknown quality is promoted via headlines that scream of a link. Published work – that can be examined, prodded, and replicated – is ignored.
This distortion is entirely of the media’s making and serves not only to distort the truth, but also to endanger public health. With a consistently dishonest press, and a toothless regulator in the PCC, it’s difficult to be optimistic that this will change.