Apr 1 2009

Letters to the Editor

Cancer and the Environment

I think Extra! is doing great work and am gratified to receive it. In a recent round-up of how the media treats breast cancer (“Overlooking Evidence,” 2/09), there was no mention made of Devra Davis, whose recent book The Secret History of the War on Cancer I have been reading. She is a very powerful mainstream voice whose confessions of governmental pressure and professional travails are highly illustrative, and I wonder why the writer omitted her voice.

Martin White

Salem, N.Y.

I read Candice O’Grady’s article on BPA and the press (2/09) with great interest. Most of this article was very well-done. But I take exception to one thing you wrote:

Despite these troubling facts, the country’s top 10 circulation papers had collectively published less than 40 pieces about BPA prior to 2007; more than a third of these were printed on the pages of the L.A. Times (e.g., 4/1/03, 4/13/05, 6/1/06). Most of the articles were prompted by independent academic research and the ensuing public concern, then abruptly dropped. What happened? These news organizations accepted the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) official line.

I am the author of those L.A. Times articles, and I never “abruptly dropped” writing about BPA and I certainly never accepted the FDA’s reassurances. I continued to write many times about BPA, including articles about conflicts of interest at a national health agency, and I continue to do so now.

I left the L.A. Times in August to become editor in chief of Environmental Health News. If you search our archives, you will see that I wrote at least 15 articles about BPA from 2005 until now. Most were for the L.A. Times, plus a few that I have written since I arrived at Environmental Health News a few months ago. I was an environmental writer at the L.A. Times for 20 years, and the risks posed by BPA, along with phthalates, flame retardants and other contaminants in the environment and in consumer products were the main topics of most of my reporting there.

To say that I or the Los Angeles Times was fooled by the FDA or lost interest in BPA is simply inaccurate and deserves a correction.

Thank you.

Marla Cone

Editor in Chief

Environmental Health News

Candice O’Grady replies:

My intention was to highlight that the L.A. Times provided much better coverage than the other top-circulation newspapers. Unfortunately, the wording was ambiguous, and I can see how it could be read as singling out the Times for criticism. That section of the story has been revised for the online version.

PR Victory in Gaza

Peter Hart has revealed in his article “Gaza as PR Battle” (3/09) that the Israeli government has done a remarkable job in disguising the indiscriminate bombings of Gaza. The U.S. media dutifully accepted what was fed to them by the Israeli war office instead of refuting the news outright just on the grounds of not being allowed to cover the war.

None bothered to write about the fate of the Christian Gazans who have lived in that area for centuries. Reporting about Christian homes being bombed or the number of casualties suffered by them was significantly absent. Such news could not have been received favorably by Americans—and that is why it was very cleverly avoided. All in all, a good PR job.

G.M. Chandu

Flushing, N.Y.

Specious SoundBite

As a subscriber to Extra! Update, I found it interesting to read an article in SoundBites that appears as specious as the issue being addressed. According to “Is Sexy TV an Effective Form of Birth Control?,” the drop in teen pregnancy can be correlated to the TV viewing habits of pregnant teens. However, again according to the article, the study said only that pregnant teens were prone to watch more of the sexy type of TV programming.

I did not read anything in the article to indicate a rise in the number of teen viewers who watched sexy TV, ergo it should not be possible to draw a conclusion regarding TV and dropping teen pregnancy rates. All the study says is that pregnant teens—regardless of their number or percentage in their peer population—tend to watch more of that type of programming than their non-pregnant peer group. Unless I’m missing something. I do enjoy and receive value from your publication.

Pat Lynn

Lake Zurich, Ill.