"Fake news is cheap to produce. Genuine journalism is expensive." Toomas Hendrik Ilves
Feb. 15, 2023
Looking at the autism news this morning, I discovered yet again that there is a “cure”. Multiple news services announcing that researchers have found a $3 pill that will take it all away. The words “might”, “help”, etc. are scattered throughout the articles to avoid any liability for any misinformation spread through their “sound bite” version of a long, arduous study with complicated scientific results. The headlines announce the breakthrough hoping to tease desperate families into an instant of belief that will cause them to read the article in a news cycle ruled by the number of clicks generated. This is not a problem that is unique to the autism world, it just cuts a little deeper when it is your loved one they are talking about. Skimming the news article, I find the link to the actual research article and try to understand the complex scientific jargon. My first hint that this is not the “magic wand” we are all hoping for is the fact that they magic $3 pill is a drug that my son and thousands of others like him have already been on for years in a quest to control their seizure disorder. Sadly, it did not “switch off” their autism as the news article suggested. The research article makes no such promises, but instead tries to identify an additional factor that might contribute to the ever-building wave of individuals with autism and related disorders. Sensationalized reporting from reputable news sources lays the groundwork for outright lies spread by people taking advantage of an at-risk population. The research is important for the scientific and autism communities, and it should be covered by the press, but today we honor responsible news reporting. Our heroes are those that put the spread of information without exaggerated claims before profits. Those that refuse to make money on the backs of a distressed population in hopes of an emotional response that will up their reader statistics. Our heroes are the limited few who still believe in the importance of truth in reporting.