Toronto Star Feels Backlash Over HPV Reporting | KBIA

Toronto Star Feels Backlash Over HPV Reporting

Feb 26, 2015

Amy Simons

The Toronto Star recently published an investigation into a possible connection between Merck's Gardisil vaccine and illnesses in teenage girls. This vaccine is to help prevent HPV, which can lead to cervical cancer for women. Fifteen days later took down the piece. They took it offline. Missouri School of Journalism professors Earnest Perry, Judd Slivka and Amy Simons discussed the issue on KBIA-FM's media criticism program, "Views of the News."

Once the story was initially released, people began to “hammer” them, Slivka stated.


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"I think everybody was hammering them, including the public health agencies whose data they were looking at."

One of the main components of this investigation was the reporting system in the United States. The people who provided this reporting system said the Star was misinterpreting it. Perry pointed out that when the data came in and they started to see no connection, that is when the editors at the Star began to back off.

"I think when the data started coming in and saying, 'Woah.' Wait a minute, you're wrong on this.'"

Simons mentions anecdotal stories are what people connect with most. Overall, they do not connect with the data as much or the drier parts of the story. Slivka suggests that for a story like this you need someone who can judge objectively and point out if a story is getting treated unfairly.

"This is where you need to have strong dispassionate managers. I think that's the first thing. You need to have someone who isn't involved in the story."