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NBC Nightly News: News program? Or “Doc In The Box” on-air advice segment?

I was tempted to let this observation fly by unaddressed because I don’t want it to appear as if I’m picking on NBC and its new medical contributor, Dr. Natalie Azar.

But there’s a pattern unraveling on the air that, in my opinion, must be addressed and changed.

Last night, on the NBC Nightly News, Dr. Azar delivered a video package, “Could Cholesterol, Eggs and Coffee Be Part of a Healthy Diet?” (At least, that’s how NBC labeled it on its website.)  It was a story about the new report, “Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015” of the US Department of Health & Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

After the video packaged ended,  Dr. Azar appeared on set in the studio, and, at 1:28 in this video, she says “We are still recommending….”

Once again, NBC’s video embed code isn’t working, but if you click on this image, it will take you to a link with the video in question.

Now, as with our previous posts on Dr. Azar’s struggles with wearing two hats as a physician and now as an NBC Medical News Contributor, that wasn’t a huge, bullhorn blast of an ethical problem.

But, as I often say, “It’s not the gorillas that get you.  It’s the ducks nibbling at your ankles.”  And she and NBC can’t duck this one this time, either.

“We are still recommending…” ???

Who is “we”?  Was she on the Advisory Committee?  Does “we” refer to “all of us in medicine?”  It certainly doesn’t refer to “all journalists” or “all of us at NBC.”

Journalists are not supposed to recommend.  Journalists are supposed to independently vet evidence and report in an accurate, balanced and complete way.   There are a lot of questions that could/should have been pursued about the new dietary guidelines.  But, instead, Dr. Azar and NBC talked about what “We are still recommending…”

The NBC Nightly News is supposed to be a news program, not an on-air “Doc In The Box” advice column.

Until NBC and Dr. Azar come to grips with the ethical issues inherent in an MD being a news contributor, we are going to recommend that viewers watch NBC News with a skeptical eye.

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