I believed in many similar stories when I was a young reporter. You would have, too. We interviewed scientists who sounded alarmed. They had data that proved coffee causes pancreatic cancer and cellphones cause brain cancer.
Of course, other scientists were skeptical, but they were harder to interview than the crusading scientists. What was in it for the calm, reasonable ones? What would they gain by taking time from their own research to try to educate stupid reporters? Plus, if they were quoted, they'd make enemies. It's easier just to avoid the media.
So we reporters talked to the activists and trusted them. They were like us. They wore blue jeans and said they wanted to protect people. The scientists who were skeptical about the latest scare, on the other hand, were often funded by business. They wore suits. Why trust them?
And they were boring, the ultimate crime in media. Company lawyers had told them, "be cautious" when talking to reporters. Caution is poison to us. A scientist saying we don't really have good evidence that coffee causes cancer is just not as interesting as one saying, "Coffee may kill you!"
Plus, politicians were always ready with some proposed regulatory "solution." That's easy to report on, too. Just go to the politician's press conference. Then we feel we've done our job.
But all we've really done is spread the hype pushed by the big-government establishment. They fool us again and again.
Attkisson and I rejected the hype. Are there others at CBS or ABC? Or at PBS, NPR or NBC? I hope so.
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