Illinois' first proton therapy center ready to open – but Illinois' top paper not ready to ask tough questions

A Chicago journalist friend wrote me recently about a story in the Chicago Tribune. The accompanying message read, “This one belongs in the paid ads department.”

It was another story singing the praises of proton beam therapy for cancer. It followed almost the exact same formula of a Columbus Dispatch story we wrote about earlier on this blog:

• unfortunate person has to travel a long way to get proton beam therapy he/she can’t get closer to home;

• but good news is on the way: soon the “same cutting-edge” therapy wlll be available closer to home.

There was none of the discussion that good journalism would present about questions concerning technology proliferation in the absence of evidence. (Both the Columbus story and two far better examples of journalism on proton beam therapy are available here.)

This may have been suburban news farmed out to the Warrenville, IL or Central DuPage reporter.

But it also appears in the Chicago Tribune, supposedly one of the nation’s best, and, usually home to some of the best health journalism. But not on this story. Not on this day.

“First in Illinois and ninth in the nation.” Perhaps. But there was no discussion of how many such centers Illinois, or the entire Midwest, or the entire nation really need – especially given questions of evidence about this highly-expensive technology. In fact, the story mentions that a competing proton center project is “on hold.” There was a only a single throw-away line about “an approval process with state regulators” that could easily be viewed as those damned bureaucrats squelching progress.

Well, such questions are important. Illinois residents and readers and health care consumers should care. We all should.

Shame on the Chicago Tribune for a simplistic, cheerleading, imbalanced and incomplete story.

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Comments (8)

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Leonard Arzt

October 7, 2010 at 6:41 pm

I’m all for the Chicago Tribune writers and editors informing and educating cancer patients in the state of Illinois about the benefits of proton therapy. I’m all for “singing the praises of proton beam therapy for cancer” especially when it can save lives and improve patients quality of life. Who can argue with that? I recommend
your readers go to http://www.proton-therapy. org and learn more about
proton therapy. We’re non-profit. We have no paid ads. Just the
facts about the most advanced form of radiation treatment
available today.
Leonard Arzt
National Association for Proton Therapy

Gary Schwitzer

October 8, 2010 at 1:25 am

My posted comments policy is to delete any comment making any kind of product pitch, which yours clearly is.
Nonetheless, in the interests of an open (albeit commercial) exchange of ideas, I have left your comment intact.
For better balance, however, I recommend that readers read the NYT and Goozner pieces linked to from within my original post.
Gary Schwitzer

Gary Schwitzer

October 8, 2010 at 1:58 am

Better than the Columbus Dispatch, see how Columbus Business First has reported on this issue.
Let’s hope the crosstown competition raises the level of all ships.

SM Fitzgerald

October 8, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Gary, this article in NYT about the culture of Sam Zell’s Tribune Inc. might explain the article you mentioned: