Deepest thanks to the public editor of The New York Times, Arthur S. Brisbane, for calling attention to CommonHealth’s posts on “shaken baby syndrome.”
See his new post, titled “Shaken Baby Syndrome Debate Moves Offshore,” here.
I promise not to belabor this any further, but I did want to emphasize what, to me, is the central journalistic point in all this: The debate over the science of abusive head trauma in babies is not a simple 50-50 split. The great majority of medical experts are on one side, and coverage should reflect that. As I wrote to the Times:
…Science is rarely just one person’s word against another’s. It is about data, and the self-correcting process of collective endeavor. When a field leans overwhelmingly in one direction, based on data, that is important, and worth conveying to the public. The classic example of this is global warming. Many reporters wrote the equivalent of “Some scientists believe the earth is warming, while some don’t,” for far longer than they should have — when they should have been writing “The vast majority of scientists accept the data that the earth is warming.
…Of course, op-ed pieces are not news articles. Opinions can be expressed. But, as one of our commenters posted, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.” The op-ed piece makes it sound like the consensus on shaken baby syndrome is shifting. In fact, according to the vast majority of medical experts who wrote in to CommonHealth, it is not.