This story, which reports on revelations calling into question previous positive findings about the use of spiral CT scans to identify lung cancer, is a good example of the press acting as watchdog over the medical research industry. While the New York Times did the original reporting to reveal the researchers’ conflict of interest, ABC’s immediate broadcast of the findings serves the public interest.
This report does several things quite well:
The only off-note here is that the report says "ABC has learned" that the researcher also had financial interests in the spiral CT scan technology via several patents. ABC News should have explained whether it "learned" these things through its own independent reporting, or by reading the news accounts of other journalists.
Because the segment reveals the lead researcher’s financial interest in the scanning technology–and because it raises suspicion about whether the widely used test is effective–the cost of a scan should have been reported.
The segment reports that the findings now called into question suggested that the use of spiral CT scans could reduce lung cancer risk by as much as 80 percent.
This helps viewers understand the magnitude of benefit the previous research showed–and why the revelations about this study’s funding are so important.
The segment does a good job describing the potential harms–unnecessary biopsies and surgeries–that even someone at high risk for lung cancer may face.
The segment states that the New York Times discovered the conflict of interest, but does not indicate what evidence was found.
The segment does not exaggerate the severity or frequency of the underlying disease, lung cancer, or of the side effects of the treatment’s high-dose radiation.
The segment is very well sourced. Sources incude:
The end of the segment plainly addresses questions viewers may have about whether to consider getting a spiral CT scan. The medical editor also indicates that research that is still going on may resolve questions about the efficacy of the treatment.
While the availablity of spiral CT scans is not in question here, the story accurately implies the tests are both widely used and currently being studied.
The novelty of the treatment is not in question in this story.
The story was based on reporting by the New York Times, not a press release. But the segment should have been clear about this from the outset. Nonetheless, the story used multiple independent sources.