KSTP-TV proclaims petri dish research may be HIV cure: Shame on them

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Predictably, local media in Minneapolis-St. Paul are all over a news release from the University of Minnesota about lab experiments – we’re talking petri dishes not people – that showed a two drug combo impacted HIV.

But KSTP-TV – the ABC station in the city – headlined this on its website as “U of M Researchers May Have HIV Cure.

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Shame on them. This is a classic example of local cheerleading for local research – note the University flag photo in the story. And it’s a classic example of how bad not only some local TV news is on the air, but on station websites. Inaccurate, imbalanced, incomplete, sensational, insensitive to viewer/patient needs.

What a horrible piece of hype, undoubtedly causing some excitement among people affected by HIV – until they read the details.

To be clear: this is an interesting and important area of research.

But it does harm – not good – for a news organization to report that this may be a cure when it hasn’t even been tested in one person yet.

Addendum on August 24: KSTP’s crosstown competitor, KARE (NBC) tonight got around to the story a day later than KSTP but didn’t put the extra time it took to file to much better use. It wasn’t until 135 words deep in a 195 word story that the story even mentioned that this hadn’t even been tested in people yet, and then almost as an afterthought:

“Plenty more research needs to be done, including clinical trials in humans, which are still a ways off. But researchers have already tested the drugs in mice and found positive results.”

Do we really have to remind anyone that you could line up from here to the moon and back things that looked good in the test tube and in mice but didn’t pan out in people? Perhaps especially with HIV? But there wasn’t much analysis here – just more hometown cheerleading.

I ask news directors of KSTP and KARE: What are the chances you would have even aired a 10-second reader if this research had come out of neighboring Madison or Iowa?

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