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JAMA 100 Years Ago
January 16, 2013

SCIENCE AND NEWSPAPER SENSATIONALISM

Author Affiliations
 

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2013;309(3):216. doi:10.1001/jama.309.3.216-b

Whether or not the interesting observations mentioned in the preceding comment will find an immediate practical application in the domain of wound-healing is a secondary consideration at present. Their chief value to-day lies in the promise which they afford in common with other studies that the factors in tissue growth are amenable to experimental methods of study. That the daily newspaper has already magnified the modest findings into the immediate possibility of healing broken legs over night can only be deprecated. We have now and then been scored for counseling an attitude of healthy skepticism in the incipient stages of new investigations. False hopes and unfulfilled promises not only injure the individual, but when distributed through the medium of the public press they react on the profession as a whole. So long as what a newspaper says is implicitly believed in by a large class there is danger in the garbled reports and one-line excerpts from scientific contributions. The aim of every editor is brevity, and the limitations of the subject which he is presenting in the news columns are too often never mentioned. The newspaper public thus gradually acquires a subconscious distrust of the medical fraternity which has not “made good” on this or that alleged revolutionary discovery—in reality no discovery at all, but only a catchword or figment of the imagination of an overzealous reporter.

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