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What's behind top scores on

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Three top-rated five-star stories were reviewed on late last week – a rare occurence.

Rarer still, two were network TV stories (CBS Evening News and ABC World News)- both on a published study on the HPV vaccine Gardasil’s safety. Both stories mentioned aggressive marketing techniques by the manufacturer Merck such as paying medical societies to promote the drug. Such conflicts of interest don’t often appear in network TV stories. However, this angle didn’t require any digging by the networks; it appeared in a published article.

The third five-star story last week was by the Los Angeles Times and it differed from the other two on topic and approach. But it was similar in that it delivered a message not often found in news stories.

Differences: it was on mammography and it was an enterprise story – something the Times initiated on its own, not merely reflecting what was published in a journal or announced at a news conference.

It did a terrific job explaining the idea that breast cancer screening may be harmful – a point not often discussed in news stories – and a vital issue for consumers to understand.

Congratulations to all three news organizations. We look for more pieces on conflicts of interest in health care and those that question the conventional wisdom.

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