Just as cosmetic treatments provide the appearance of youth, without actually offering any real health benefits, this story appears to be about a new laser device intended to reduce wrinkles, but it fails to provide viewers with meaningful information about the device or how it compares to alternative procedures.
The fault is not entirely that of the reporters; the manufacturer put out a news release announcing FDA approval of the device, but then refused to give out any further details. Of course, the journalists could have decided not to do the story at all.
Gertrude Stein said of Oakland, “when you get there, there isn’t any there there.” With its lack of useful information about the laser device, the same could be said of this story that isn’t a story.
This story barely meets the criterion. It discusses costs, and does a good job of emphasizing that most treatments that reduce the appearance of wrinkles have only temporary effects and need to be repeated indefinitely, often at great cost. However, it lacks specific figures about the cost of the new laser device.
The story does emphasize that the effects of this device are much smaller than those of cosmetic treatments offered by dermatologists; but the magnitude of the difference is not defined. Also, this statement is made without reference to any evidence to support a conclusion about the relative effectiveness of the device compared to established procedures.
The dermatologist quoted in the story says, “I think you’re looking at a device that’s going to only produce a single digit fraction of results as compared to what you can get in a dermatologist’s office.”
The meaning of “a single digit fraction” is a mystery left unanswered in this story.
The medical correspondent states the obvious by pointing out that a device used at home would be more convenient than going to a physician for treatment.
Although the headline of this story is about a home laser device, there is almost no discussion of the device itself. A dermatologist warns against a tendency to “over-abuse and overuse,” but these terms are not defined.
No evidence is discussed. Indeed, the manufacturer refused requests from other news organizations for details about the device, so there are no facts to report. What’s more, when discussing laser treatments done by a dermatologist, the correspondent relies on a single set of before-and-after photographs of a patient, without making reference to any controlled trials or other scientific evidence.
The story repeatedly confuses wrinkles with aging. Wrinkles are not a disease. Treatments that reduce the appearance of wrinkles have no effect on the underlying process of aging… or of certain conditions that affect the appearance of the skin.
A person who has wrinkles burned or scrubbed away or disguised by cosmetic treatments is no younger or healthier than someone who covers up the wrinkles with make-up. This story feeds misconceptions about health and aging.
In an odd reversal of the usual pattern of stories that fail to meet this criterion, this report included only doctors who were independent of the company marketing this laser device. There was no interview or other information that came from anyone with first-hand knowledge of the device, how it was tested, or what results it has demonstrated in trials.
Viewers were left to figure out on their own that the dermatologist interviewed for this story has a vested interest in persuading people to pay him or his colleagues for treatment, rather than trying an over-the-counter device.
There were no quotes or statements from professional societies, public agencies, or others who could offer an independent overview of the pros and cons of the new device.
Most of this report is about alternative procedures, so it would seem to meet this criterion. However, the lack of information about the new device makes any meaningful comparisons impossible.
This one is a close call. The story does state that the device has received FDA approval, but is not yet available. However, the absence of any detail about device or the manufacturer leaves viewers in the dark.
There are other devices available to consumers that use “light therapy” to affect the appearance of the skin. Since this story provided no information about the recently-approved device, it is impossible to tell whether or how it may be different from competing products. By looking at other sources, it does appear that this device is the first laser specifically approved for over-the-counter treatment of wrinkles; but this distinction is not clear from viewing the story.
The story included an interview with a dermatologist and does not appear to rely only on a news release.