Friday, April 25, 2008

Setting the Story Straight

One of the first rules of journalism is that the first rule can change depending on what the editor demands of you for that particular moment. Even through all of the confusion of finding the proper headline to meeting the deadline, one thing remains constant with all good journalists. Journalism thrives on facts. As such, it can be fairly said that the single most important rule is to insure the accuracy of such information being conveyed to the public.

I was approached a week ago to do an interview. I was elated to do so. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to raise the awareness for oral cancer. At first I was put out by the lack of preparation by this young reporter. The interview started off with him asking me to tell a bit about myself. After doing so, he looked at me with a blank stare as if to say, Is that it? We talked about how I first thought there was a problem to how I now choose to use this as an advocacy to raise awareness for Oral Cancer. After an hour and running his tape recorder out twice, I gave him the blog address so he could get all the facts and it could answer questions and give him a better understanding of what I am trying to accomplish. After leaving his office, I felt the story was not going to come out properly. But then I felt perhaps he was just nervous. Perhaps, being young and new, the editor will guide him and assist with a properly written story. I mean, we all have to learn our craft at some point.

When the story was released I was at first impressed. They had a nice 4x3 block on the top of the front page with a nice tag line directing you to the main story. And the story that was written was nice. Unfortunately it was not accurate.There were many misquotes and facts that were either in the wrong order of events or just flat wrong.I did not seek the advice of a EMT who suspected cancer, It was an ENT. The oral surgeon ( who was great by the way) did not advise me to have a radical surgery that the paper spoke of. It was the second ENT that I was referred to. The list goes on and on. Reverting back to the original point of journalism relying of facts.

They failed this story on two counts.
First they failed to report the facts properly. The second and most important of the two, the main focus was not to be a man who had cancer. It was to be, how a man with cancer turns a negative into a positive to help others by raising awareness. It is about setting an example of strength and courage. I suppose had they profiled the man rather than the disease, and done the homework, all would have turned out better than I had expected.

One quote they got right is what I shall leave you with today."The most important thing is being your own advocate and find out what is best for you." I will further add, " Doctors can only present their recommendation for treatment based on their experiences. You must gather all information from all sources available including other types of Doctors and decide what the best treatment is for you."


Jeanne said...

John--I'm glad you posted this. I'm going to write something tomorrow about talking to the press, and I'll quote you and link to this post.


Lois said...

Hey John,
Hope you're doing well. I am a few weeks ahead of you in the game. I had surgery Jan. 11 for partial tongue removal, and then radiation was completed March 28th. It gets better... During radiation I said I would never do it again because it made me so miserable, and yet now, i can't remember exactly how awful it was. The pain really does go away, and food will someday taste like it should again. Good luck, best wishes, and many, many prayers for a speedy and healthy recovery.