Two public editors for North American publications have weighed in on their outlets’ coverage of vaccinations, measles coverage and those who do not vaccinate.
Sylvia Stead, the public editor for the Globe & Mail in Canada wrote March 12 that there is “no need to offer ‘false balance’ to anti-vaxxers.” That conclusion came in response to complaints from anti-vaccination group “Vaccine Choice Canada,” Stead wrote.
“The Globe and Mail does stand for freedom of speech and a balance of opinions,” Stead responded. “But there is no ‘balance’ in giving a platform to peddlers of unscientific and irresponsible notions – climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers or those who call the moon landing a hoax. The Globe and Mail, like all responsible media, believes in science and facts.”
Stead noted she advises against the phrase “vaccine hesitancy” because it “soft-pedals a serious threat to our health.”
Over at NPR, NPR public editor Elizabeth Jensen wrote recently that some readers complained that NPR hasn’t provided “both sides” of the story to vaccinations. One listener said NPR should interview people who “choose NOT to vaccinate.”
However, Jensen found that NPR’s reporting on vaccines “has been responsible, even if it sometimes goes against the principle of reporting a wide range of voices.”
She explained it is “tricky” to report on those who don’t vaccinate “without spreading misinformation.” One such way would be using a “truth sandwich” by reporting factually around any inaccurate claims.
“The coverage has stuck to the facts: As multiple studies have shown, there is no link between childhood vaccinations and autism, one of the main fears cited by parents who choose to opt out of vaccinations,” Jensen noted.
Unlike Stead, Jensen suggested NPR use “vaccine-hesitant” or “vaccine-resistant” instead of “anti-vaxxers,” because some people find “anti-vaxxers” to be a negative term, and some people are only “on the fence” and not “adamantly opposed.”