Blogs vs. Mainstream Media

“Mr. [James B.] Gottstein, [a lawyer from Alaska, who was pursuing unrelated litigation for mentally ill patients in his state], sends [Dr. David Egilman, a consulting witness in ongoing litigation against Lilly] a subpoena for copies. Hell begins breaking loose.” – Tom Zeller, Jr. in The New York Times

I think Furious Seasons originally linked to this (I can’t remember the source of the post), but I read this on the NYT and had a few thoughts, regarding brick-and-mortar courts vs. “teh Internets.”

Warning: Rant ahead.

I can’t help but think back to the 2004 showdown between Dan Rather and CBS (endearingly named Rathergate) vs. political blogs regarding a memo about George W. Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard. From NewsMax:

“Added [Matthew] Sheffield [of RatherBiased.com]: A virtual think-tank was born… Forty-seven posts later, a person who called himself ‘Buckhead’ offered the proposition that he thought the documents were forgeries.’

Sheffield and his Web site jumped on the bandwagon, searching the Web for experts on 1970′s typewriters. Another blogger site, PowerlineBlog.com, raised the question of forgery. ‘Matt Drudge and his DrudgeReport.com then linked to the Powerline piece, and the story took off,’ recounted Sheffield.”

Someone please tell Drudge about Zyprexa, Risperdal, Cymbalta, Seroquel, Abilify, and blah blah blah, psych med, blah blah blah.

“Some media observers now contend the “Blogosphere” is rapidly replacing CBS and the rest of the mainstream media.

“You’ll note that several blogs rank higher than mid-size daily newspapers and some are pushing the sites of papers in the top 50 (by daily circulation). The data suggest that the question isn’t “When will blogs arrive?” but rather “Blogs HAVE arrived, what now?” [said Kevin Aylward of Wizbangblog.]”

I’ll probably have a string of quotes from the newsmax article, but I will eventually get to my point.

I quoted this previously, but it’s worth requoting:

“It’s great that [Philip] Dawdy [of Furious Seasons] has stepped up for a huge, mainly voiceless population, but on the other hand, it’s weird to see citizen journalists so responsible for watchdogging our mental health industry. When we hear newspapers complain about declining readership, we can’t help but think it’s mainly because — gosh, this is awkward — the shit they’re reporting on isn’t newsworthy. And this shit is.” – Seattlest

Some of the highest-trafficked blogs are political and celebrity blogs.
(I’ll be honest – no, I don’t have concrete data to back that up.) Blogs about celebrities are quickly outpacing political blogs in
developing a large, widespread audience (see Perez Hilton vs. Daily Kos). Although political blogs didn’t fall off the face of the earth once Rathergate ended, their ascent into mainstream media quickly descended into oblivion once
again. News outlets became more concerned on reporting about the “dangers of MySpace” than citizen journalism that informs and makes a difference. Not all blogs are accurate – heavens knows mine isn’t although I like to think, for the most part, it is – but they provide more information than mainstream media ever will (although I am leery of Wikinews). And unfortunately, I and many other blogs provide more information than what my former journalism professor liked to call “fast-food news.” Flip on the TV or news radio: give me a weekly report on anything you hear about mental health – depression, bipolar disorder, Zyprexa, Cymbalta – anything BUT celebrities who admit to being depressed. The likelihood that you’ll hear in-depth reporting about mental health is little to nil. Unless you’re listening to or watching a financial report about how Eli Lilly’s fourth-quarter earnings fell, although its Wall Street shares went up. The article corroborates my theory that  news outlets only pick up on pharma news in regard to financial earnings as opposed to investigating their underhanded practices. Heaven forbid the AP or Reuters do some original reporting on Lilly and transmit it to national news media.


“[Paul] Mirengoff  [of Powerline] further suggested that the main
stream media may be now finding it necessary to join and compete with
“other voices” in the media, “losing control of the agenda” that it had
dictated over so many years.

The blogger also opined that although the main stream media still has
the obvious advantages of a huge audience and armies of fact-checkers,
it also suffers from the twin liabilities of ‘arrogance’ and often
‘cluelessness.’”

Oh man, did Mirengoff hit the nail on the head. Much of reported news is shallower than
a 3-inch pool of water. Here’s my envisioned version of a news report
on Zyprexa [essentially a paraphrase of NYT’s article]:

“Eli Lilly, maker of Zyprexa, has settled a $500-million lawsuit with
18,000 people who charged that the drug led to the development of
diabetes among other illnesses after taking Zyprexa.

The drug, geared toward treating schizophrenia and bipolar disorder,
has been used by 20 million people since it hit worldwide markets in
1996.


According to the company, more than 1,000 lawsuits are pending.”

Welcome to your quick-news fix. Television and radio coverage on the
matter would last about 30 seconds. Those tuning in would be lucky to
view a full minute of coverage.

“Mirengoff also pointed to the rise in the specialty blog, for instance
giving rise to the influx of stories regarding the courts knocking down
the federal sentencing guidelines.

‘We went to SentencingGuidelines.com and found a wealth of information
and background.’ This type of detail is not forthcoming from the
traditional news sources, he noted.


Sheffield emphasized that main stream journalists can learn from the
bloggers – like admitting right up front you have a viewpoint on an
issue that you report on. The reverse is true, he added, saying that
the main stream media might be slower to break a story, but will most
often responsibly hold back until the facts are clear.

‘The future belongs to the media that combines the best of both,’ he concluded.”

Although the U.S. has a population nearing 300 million (as of a July ’06 estimate), it never fails to shock me that nearly 60 million U.S. adults suffer from a mental illness at some point. (Remember, that last figure does NOT include those under the age of 18.) However, the NYT is the only news outlet that has investigative reporting on Eli Lilly’s documents regarding Zyprexa. I can’t help but admit that I’m tired of recycled fluff stories that say, “Feeling blah? Beat back the winter blues” or “Conquering depression can take many treatments.” (Umm, duh.) Modern media are
inherently lazy. I’d love for 20/20 to pick up on the tactics that sales reps use to have doctors prescribe pharmaceutical meds. Perhaps they have and I am not aware of it. John Stossel tends to do some nice investigative reporting, IMO. In fact, on the 20/20 Web site, there’s an article about how TV drug ads are turning viewers into hypochondriacs.

I’ll wrap this long post up with a link to a clip from Scrubs on YouTube clip. Despite the comedic approach, Dr. Perry’s rant to sales rep Julie (Heather Locklear) toward the end is quite accurate. Then she starts smacking
her butt and I lose all interest. (Also, have you ever noticed that female sales reps tend to be hot, i.e., former cheerleaders?)

Another great YouTube video is 10 minutes long, but incredibly worth watching. A group of med students highlight the gift-giving practice of sales reps to doctors in return for docs prescribing their meds. Notice the nice pen protest about two minutes into the clip.

There’s a plethora of pharma sales reps videos outing the sleazy pharma company practices. See for yourself.

NOTE: SentencingGuidelines.com no longer appears to be a domain in use.

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1 Comment

  1. Stephany said,

    February 6, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    Great post. I would love to see a ‘hidden camera’ approach done by 20/20 etc., and show what the real deal is with the pharma cheerleaders scoring big bucks for the team(Big Pharma).
    Keep up the good work.


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