So Brian Williams, it’s now reported, will be suspended without pay for 6 months by NBC News after his false claims about an experience during the Iraq war.
A few months ago, NBC’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Nancy Snyderman was taken off the air after “a breach of her Ebola quarantine.”
Last night, Williams’ replacement anchorman, Lester Holt, introduced Azar at the end of a video package on “What Doctors Want You to Know About Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,” saying:
“Our medical contributor Dr. Natalie Azar joins us now. She’s a rheumatologist and treats chronic fatigue disease….” Azar went on to say what a big day this was on many counts, including “education for physicians so they can refer patients to physicians who can manage this.”
Hmmm….meaning physicians like her, who was just introduced on network TV as one who “treats chronic fatigue disease”?
We may be struggling with what to call chronic fatigue disease, but we shouldn’t struggle with calling this appearance what it is: a conflict of interest.
Dr. Azar didn’t appear as an interviewee. She appeared as an NBC News Medical Contributor. Should we next expect – and look the other way – if a person who sells drones appears as an NBC News Contributor about the wonders of drones? Or a Boston snow-plow company owner appearing as an NBC News Contributor about what a great job of snow removal he has done and can continue to do?
(The embed code provided by NBC doesn’t work, but you can click on the image below to get to the link with the on-air video.)
The networks either don’t get it or they don’t give a damn. Put a bright young MD face on the air (younger, we might point out, than Nancy Snyderman) and to hell with any critics who point out conflict of interest.
Fox News thumbs its nose at blatant conflicts of interest with contributions from Dr. David Samadi and, more recently, from Dr. Jennifer Landa.
A recent Columbia Journalism Review piece, “Database may uncover conflicts of interest for TV doctors,” raised questions about COI at other networks, as I have in the past.
Maybe when no one with a pulse is left watching, they’ll get the message.
Addendum: On February 16, I added a new post, “A new MD-journalist asks, ‘Is there a role for the physician-journalist?’ ” It’s a long (2,000 words, sorry!) response to a series of smart questions raised by a recent Harvard Med School grad and aspiring journalist.
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