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Sharyl Attkisson: Et tu, Washington Post? The Copycat Syndrome.

SharylWe invite you to bookmark Sharyl Attkisson's website for a serious look at the state of journalism today. The following excerpt is especially relevant to our readers. As always, thank you to Ms. Attkisson for her diligence.


Today, there are plenty of outstanding journalists at the networks, national newspapers and Web sites, and other traditional outlets. But there are lots of problems, too. One disturbing trend lies in some reporters’ tendency to parrot rumors and copycat what others say or blog, rather than doing the job we’re supposed to do: original research.

It’s tempting.

There’s so much information out there on the Web, quasi-news sites, opinion blogs, Twitter and Facebook. News deadlines are short and it’s quick and easy to repeat what’s already been said or heard, and abandon the traditional job of seeking firsthand confirmation or original truth, when one exists. But there are other reasons reporters repeat what they read or hear from others, unchecked: they personally agree with the viewpoints. In other words, they may seek out opinions that fit their preconceived narrative or personal beliefs, and then use that to bolster their own thesis in their own reporting.

Unfortunately, this tendency plays into the hands of paid forces, propagandists, special interests and others who wish to manipulate public opinion. All they need do is create a bit of “buzz” about, or manufacture a controversy on, a given topic and it’s sure to be picked up and repeated by dutiful surrogates and, eventually, bleed over into their unwitting partners in the news media.

More discussion of these tactics coming up in my book, “Stonewalled”

Reporters should be better than that. We should be able to scratch beyond the superficial, and recognize and reject propaganda.

A case in point is the unwarranted parenthetical remark that the Washington Post printed about my “medical reporting” in a recent article reported by Paul Farhi. Farhi stated, “Attkisson’s work on medical topics has been controversial” as if to warn viewers, in advance, that my latest report on medical news should be viewed askance. Specifically, he said that “medical experts criticized [Attkisson's] reporting in 2012 about a purported link between vaccines and autism.” What he failed to note, violating the basic tenets of fairness, was that medical experts and neutral journalism organizations have long recognized my medical reporting for excellence, including my stories on the well-documented links between vaccines and autism.  Read and comment at SharylAttkisson.com.



Crony journalism has always been a problem, but was worsened by communications tech advancements that quickened the news cycle and pace of information gathering.

Not just journalists but college professors and government policymakers sometimes take reporting shortcuts, perhaps hoping their assertion will stand if it's expounded with enough rhetorical force. But retractions are small consolation to the victims of falsehoods spread exponentially online.

As per original reporting: A tiny percentage of parents of vaccine-injured children have been directly contacted by journalists for fact-gathering, compared to the huge total number affected. And of course the number of victims contacted by vaccine promoters for purposes of treatment and study of vaccine injury prevention is effectively zero.

Jenny Allan

The UK General Medical Council is to undergo an investigation by former judge Sir Anthony Hooper on how the GMC treats doctors who become whistleblowers, raising public concerns about poor care in the NHS and other UK medical facilities.
From above:-
"Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the GMC, said:
‘Standing up for what you believe in is important, and nowhere is that more true than in healthcare. Our guidance is quite clear about the requirement of doctors to raise concerns about poor care, but we want to make sure we are doing all we can to support those that do.

‘Raising concerns is central to protecting patients and providing good medical care. We want to ensure that the GMC has the proper processes and guidance in place to support doctors who raise concerns. We hope that this review – which is focussed on the GMC alone – will also be helpful in the context of the wider review of whistleblowing in the NHS being undertaken by Sir Robert Francis QC.’

Sir Robert Francis, produced a damning report into appalling NHS care in Staffordshire, England. Several 'whistles' were ignored. Hundreds of patients died in terrible circumstances. Sir Francis now heads the Patient Association in England (I'm a member and active campaigner for NHS improvement).

Also:- Can anyone give an example of where the GMC has supported a whistleblower? If not, why not?

From above:-
"It has been reported that the General Medical Council closed cases against four senior doctors who held management positions at Stafford Hospital, while neglect and abuse occurred. These physicians face no further action from the GMC, and appear to have suffered none during the investigation. The actual main statutory duty of the General Medical Council is to protect public safety.

The duty of the General Medical Council is not to build up a compelling case to discredit individuals or humiliate them such they never work again, although you would be forgiven for thinking that given some cases which have occasionally hit the papers."

The GMC and its sister organisation The Nursing and Midwifery Council, are perceived to have few concerns about patient safety and wellbeing. Instead they have become fiercely protective of corporate and political interests. Woe betide any doctor or nurse who dares to go public with their concerns about patient safety. In addition to Dr Wakefield and his colleagues, there have been several other UK doctors dragged before the GMC on flimsy or manufactured so called evidence, most of which would never be admissable in a real court of law.

After the watershed Judge Mitting High Court appeal which exonerated Wakefield co-defendant Professor Walker-Smith, there will be no more ghastly GMC 'courts' (Prof Walker-Smith called the 3 year GMC hearing an 'inquisition'), but a new system of 'tribunals' has replaced them supposedly led by 'independent' panels. Whether or not these will be any fairer remains to be seen.

david m burd

Rae Nadler-Olenick,

I think it's very important that virtually 100% of autistic-spectrum children have NOT a "disease" (as you have said), but have been physically & mentally damaged by toxins inflicted upon them, even in the womb by such as flu & other shots given to their mothers.

Hell, even the Vitamin K shot injected into newborns contains benzyl alcohol, and the HepB vaccine right after birth is truly criminal, on & on through dozens of injected vaccines the infants' first seven months, including TWO flu shots at 6 & 7 months, both still having the mercury Thimerosal by default - unless otherwise insisted by parents.

Our babies are being literally damaged by medical protocols; they do not incur disease. Hope you don't mind my making the distinction.

Jenny Allan

@John Stone
Jackie Fletcher was able to prove her profoundly disabled son Robert received the Urabe mumps containing MMR vaccine several weeks AFTER the vaccine was banned in the UK. Her GP practice attempted to cover this up, but enough evidence survived. The UK Government slapped a 20 year ban on public reporting of the Urabe MMR vaccine scandal. The truth finally emerged in the Scottish Herald and Scottish Daily Mail at around the time of the GMC guilty verdicts on Dr Wakefield and his two clinician colleagues. I suspect the timing was 'engineered' to prevent this damning evidence from being heard by the GMC panel.

I stupidly gave my internet Herald copy to a bolshie TV reporter, (from a London station), outside the London GMC premises. By the time I got home to Scotland, all evidence of the Government's complicity had been removed from the Herald internet article, but I still have my Mail actual newspaper cutting. The Herald also reported the death of a six month old Glasgow baby a few days after administration of this dangerous vaccine. Michael Forsyth, then UK Government Health Minister expressed concern at the time, but was assured the baby's death was nothing to do with the vaccine.

However, the truth about the Urabe MMR vaccine was now in the public domain and the vaccine damage claims were finally able to be processed including Robert's. The victims were unable to sue the manufacturers, thanks to the UK Government awarding them indemnity. Robert's award was derisory, but better than nothing. A young woman who was rendered deaf by the vaccine was told she was not disabled enough for compensation. The vast majority of Urabe MMR victims got nothing at all. The UK Government has never apologised; instead they have concentrated on blaming Dr Wakefield at every opportunity. Brian Deer's style of bought and sold 'investigative reporting' has now become the 'norm', and heaven help any reporter who dares to question any establishment spin and fabrication.

Well done Sharyl for refusing to take the Judas pieces of silver. I hope you get your reward before heaven.

John Stone

In the UK yesterday we had the chat show host John Stapleton suggest with something less than good taste to Jackie Fletcher of JABS that there were reliable statistics which showed the benefits of vaccines vastly outweighed the risks. Jackie answered him politely, but it should be all too obvious that governments collect data which support policy and don't collect data which undermine it. In the case of adverse vaccine reactions and their sequelae they don't actively collect, monitor or investigate anything. If you try to raise it you will be met with institutional hostility. Stapleton was posing as the honest broker but of course he didn't have the faintest clue. If you just have to consider the incredible 17 year mountain that Jackie had to climb to get any recognition at all for a single case you might begin to understand the level of bias.

Anne McElroy Dachel

Reporters should be better than that. We should be able to scratch beyond the superficial, and recognize and reject propaganda.

What Sharyl Attkisson says is so true. I've been monitoring how the media covers autism for 10 years. I have stories about the individual reporters and their comments about me. Once when I read a story about a doctor who'd written a book on autism and clearly linked it to vaccines, I was so angry. Why had the reporter left it out of his review of the book? I called him at his newspaper and asked about his coverage. His indignant response was that he'd had only 20 minutes to look at the book before the interview and he was only interested in general questions. (I'm not sure I believed that, but few reporters want to get involved in the most heated controversy in pediatric medicine. So much easier to pretend it doesn't exist.)

Attkisson, a five time Emmy winning journalist, has given the autism-vaccine issue this coverage, including the work of Dr. Andrew Wakefield.

Vaccines and Autism: A New Review March 31, 2011 http://www.hawkeshealth.net/community/showthread.php?t=7222

Vaccines, Autism and Brain Damage: What's in a Name? Sept 14, 2010 http://www.cbsnews.com/news/vaccines-autism-and-brain-damage-whats-in-a-name/

Dr. Mercola and Sharyl Attkisson (Part 1) Nov 17, 2009 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsawOwPgZZc

Dr. Mercola and Sharyl Attkisson (Part 2) Nov 17, 2009 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5p4sIRU7AM

Dr. Mercola and Sharyl Attkisson (Part 3) Nov 17, 2009 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kohGt5l_QTU

Dr. Mercola and Sharyl Attkisson (Part 4) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVVK5-XbwGs

Controversy Over Vaccine Research Oct 7, 2009 http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/controversy-over-vaccine-research/

HPV Vaccine Side Effects Aug 18, 2009 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71cTzZmwIfg

Healy On Vaccine-Autism Link July 28, 2008 http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/healy-on-vaccine-autism-link/

How Independent Are Vaccine Defenders? July 25, 2008 http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-independent-are-vaccine-defenders/

Gardasil HPV Vaccine Side Effects, July 8, 2008 http://www.cbsnews.com/news/gardasil-hpv-vaccine-side-effects/

Is HPV Vaccine Safe? July 7, 2008 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31Irc8CHK0c

Vaccine Watch, June 19, 2008 http://www.cbsnews.com/news/vaccine-watch-19-06-2008/

The "Open Question" On Vaccines and Autism, May 12, 2008 http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-open-question-on-vaccines-and-autism/

The Theories About Autism And Vaccines March 7, 2008 http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-theories-about-autism-and-vaccines/

Vaccine Case: An Exception Or A Precedent? March 6, 2008 http://www.cbsnews.com/news/vaccine-case-an-exception-or-a-precedent/

Vaccines on Trial 2007 http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/vaccines-on-trial/

Mercury Link To Autism? June 22, 2004 http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/mercury-link-to-autism/

Autism, Mercury Link Disputed May 18, 2004 http://www.cbsnews.com/news/autism-mercury-link-disputed/

Once a reporter to whom I'd sent a lot of studies etc on autism and vaccines told me, you've sent some interesting things, but what you're talking about is a conspiracy between the medical community, federal health officials and the vaccine industry. There's just too much oversight for that to happen. This person trusted everything that was officially announced, because it was from officials.

Another reporter told me that what I wrote about was convincing, but there were so many forces against me, I was "swimming upstream."

The simple truth is, if any reporter really looked into the controversy over vaccines and autism, they'd see the bogus science. They'd be very uneasy about the all the conflicts of interest and the pharma-funded studies on vaccine safety. Sadly, they never do. It's so much easier to take press releases from the people who run the vaccine program and print them as fact.

The best example I can cite is Louis Conte. In chapter one of my upcoming book, The Big Autism Cover-Up, I cite Conte for his comment on the media regarding the fact that the federal government had quietly compensated 83 cases of vaccine-induced autism, while publicly stating that THERE WAS NO LINK BETWEEN VACCINES AND AUTISM.

I quoted Conte:

"The release of the paper was greeted with media silence. I spoke to journalists who flat out told me that their networks or their editors were pressured to not cover this story. One highly placed investigative journalist at a major network told me, 'I can't believe what you found. This should be our lead story. It's shocking. And I've been told that I can't cover it.'" -Louis Conte on the media's failure to cover "Unanswered Questions."

Anne Dachel, Media

Rae Nadler-Olenick

"...all they need to do is create a bit of a buzz..."

And how. One I've noticed just recently is about "rare diseases." That phrase is suddenly on everybody's lips. Not that we shouldn't care about rare diseases (like autism used to be). But in this case, it's all about a rush to find treatments for conditions we didn't know existed via creation of drugs of "limited commercial value." Since pharmaceutical companies have little incentive to produce drugs that aren't big moneymakers, we can expect the rare diseases to become a lot less rare in the future.


As always, Bob's right. Again.
Thank you, Sharyl, for everything you do. We look forward to many more years of your excellence.

BoB Moffitt

Sharyl writes:

"One disturbing trend lies in some reporters’ tendency to parrot rumors and copycat what others say or blog, rather than doing the job we’re supposed to do: original research."

Common sense suggests it is a lot "safer" professionally .. to "go with the tide" .. than actually try to "stem the tide" of wrongdoing.

Unfortunately, there are far too few "investigative journalist" like Sharyl .. as an example .. if you haven't read Sharyl's column "Full Disclosure: Did Government's Experiment on Preemies Hide Risks" .. you should .. it is a must read to fully understand how "blurred" the ethical lines of medical research have become.


If this is the type of "investigative reporting" that Washington Post Paul Farhi defined as "controversal" .. the man is daft.

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