Naming and Praising Awards – April 2002
SIRC Naming and Praising Awards go to James Meikle at the Guardian and David Derbyshire at the Telegraph for their calm, responsible coverage of the recent 'Parkinson's breakthrough' story. Meikle managed to get the main caveat into the very first sentence of his story, while Derbyshire devoted most of the third and fourth sentences to important ifs and buts. In neither case did this responsible approach detract from the interest or impact of the news, but Parkinson's sufferers and their relatives reading Meikle's and Derbyshire's accounts will not have false hopes cruelly raised by expectations of a 'miracle cure'.
These journalists prove that the advice in the SIRC/RS/RI Guidelines – to mention any caveats in the first few lines of any report on a potential health benefit or risk – can be followed without detriment to the news value of the story.
It is perhaps no accident that these stories were written by their papers' health and science correspondents, while the Independent relied on a PA News text, which failed to mention any caveats until the very last lines, and the Sun gave us the predictably irresponsible "Docs hail miracle cure" headline, again leaving a brief mention of the fact that it will be years before any treatment is available to the very end of the report.
22 April 2002