Twice now, I’ve noticed the good editors of our beloved weekly (and I mean that) defend themselves against vicious attacks for their treatment of alternative health therapies. In their latest defense, they’ve claimed their job is “to inform readers about what healing modalities are being practiced locally.” They clearly state that they “are not in a position to judge the scientific merit of healing modalities” [Editors’ Response to “’Stone Medicine’ In Recent Article Isn’t Backed Up with Science,” March 4, Xpress].
Of course, you could argue that they are not land-use experts or art experts or food experts or even political science experts. Yet they still report on issues involved in those topics. The point is: They don’t have to be experts about healing modalities. They don’t have to experts at anything. It’s not their job to be experts; it’s their job to be reporters.
The real experts, in medicine, for example, are accessible by phone or email. The good editors of the Mountain Xpress could have, and should have, given the article more depth by interviewing some dispassionate health experts (if any exist) to give a full scope to the issue.
Instead, they presented the claims of healers as fact. What’s next? Creationists explaining their theories as fact with no rebuttal? Developers espousing the virtues of their projects with no room for dissent? Political discourse from only one side of the table?
I love the Xpress and read it faithfully every week, but this is not a trend I will abide. Their stance on this issue is cheap and lazy. Yes, it costs more to do a thorough investigation of a complex issue like alternative medicine. But the eventual outcome is a hundred times more valuable to the community than a fluff piece on what passes for medical treatment around the city.
If you purport to be a newspaper, practice responsible journalism. If you want to publish feature articles that barely skim the surface of an issue, don’t pass off your articles as “news.”
— Mark Bloom
Editors’ response: Thanks for your reasoned critique; you make good points. To respond: We believe it’s valid and important to cover alternative healing modalities, some of which challenge basic beliefs, including those labeled intuitive, energy and spiritual. But when doing so, we can do better in terms of providing multiple perspectives and being more skeptical in our approach. That’s not to say our coverage will attempt a full analysis of whether a certain approach works, particularly when that topic is being debated elsewhere. But our reporters can serve readers better by probing and challenging the local practitioner’s or spokesperson’s statements. In response to the feedback we’ve received, we have incorporated these goals into our process.