I knew about it. But I wasn’t going to write about it because I did last year and my criticism apparently went nowhere.
But then a former journalism student, Emma Carew, now at the Star Tribune, tweeted me this morning about the latest round of Pfizer-funded cancer seminars at the National Press Foundation in Washington, D.C.:
@garyschwitzer your thoughts? JOURNOS: Attend a 4-day seminar on cancer issues in DC. All expenses paid. http://j.mp/cgJ8eH. about 5 hours ago (from @emmacarew)
My quick responses as soon as I could respond:
Wouldn’t want on my c-v! I criticized these Pfizer-pfunded seminars to NPF & SPJ which helped promote it last year. Deaf ears. http://bit.ly/9gHkyK. about 3 hours ago
The link goes to a blog post I wrote one year ago when the National Press Foundation was promoting its Pfizer-pfunded cancer seminar last summer.
Maybe it’s a good thing this issue did get dusted off again. It’s clear that others are upset about it, because the online Twitter conversation continued:
@garyschwitzer part of the multi level marketing campaign – it’s not enough 2 use direct 2 consumer/doctor advertising – need the press also about 3 hours ago via web (from @WriteWithStan)
Just a (choke) whiff of conflict-of-interest RT @garyschwitzer: @emmacarew All expenses paid (by Pfizer) cancer seminar. http://j.mp/cgJ8eH about 3 hours ago via HootSuite (from @MedicalBillDog)
Journalism organizations too cozy with drug industry… http://bit.ly/bh8uaZ Gary Schwitzer’s HealthNewsReview #UMN about 3 hours ago via bitly (from @wbgleason)
RT @wbgleason: Journalism organizations too cozy with drug industry… http://bit.ly/bh8uaZ Gary Schwitzer’s HealthNewsReview #UMN about 3 hours ago via HootSuite (from Michael Caputo, Minnesota Public Radio)
I wish more journalists like Caputo would report on this. Journalists have been terribly quiet. I know at least one news organization plans to report on this soon because I’ve been asked for a reaction by a reporter via email this afternoon.
This one shouldn’t be swept under the rug because it’s questioning a “news foundation.”
Addendum on August 24: For more, read Christopher Weaver’s piece on the NPR Shots health blog.
And my followup to what was said in that piece, even if National Press Foundation staff choose the speakers and set the agenda, even if the Pfizer “guy never even showed up” last year, even if one reporter doesn’t recall Pfizer even being mentioned once at last year’s session, one fact remains. Some journalists will have taken Pfizer money to attend this session. Journalists are taught to avoid even the perception of conflict. Or are they taught that anymore?
Addendum on August 25: Other key perspectives just posted by Merrill Goozner on his blog.
Addendum on August 27:
Just today, the National Press Foundation invited me to speak at this year’s Pfizer-funded session. From NPF: “You may speak on any topic you like related to journalism or cancer coverage, including matters relating to the current online discussion of this program.”
That was a gracious, proactive and open-minded move by NPF and I thank them for it and applaud them for it.
Unfortunately I cannot attend because of a longstanding prior commitment. I have communicated this to NPF and also stated my desire to meet with them to discuss these issues in the future.
The debate on this issue has been healthy, although, at times a bit acrid. I regret if any of my comments contributed to that tone or were interpreted in the wrong way. My passion runs deep on this issue, as I know it does in those who have voiced differing opinions.
I’ve devoted my entire career to the improvement of health journalism. I wrote the Statement of Principles of the Association of Health Care Journalists and just wrote an AHCJ guide on how to report on research. I’m traveling >70K miles/yr. – all devoted to health journalism improvement.
I look forward to exchanging ideas with NPF.