Death By Journalism: Lives Over Clicks?


When I opened up the Facebook app in the terminal of RDU on my way back home to Memphis, I wanted to shout. I was angry. I was disappointed. I could see the troubling situation unfolding and just knew there would be nothing or no one that could stop it short of the article being edited or taken down all together. The story had been broken several days prior, a nurse reused the same syringe (NOT needle) on almost 70 people while giving the flu vaccine. Now, I think we can all agree that this person should be punished. That is a clear violation of protocol. Many outlets said the people will be tested for infectious diseases such as HIV and the various forms of hepatitis, but one source which I will not even give the clicks to anymore had on their Facebook lead in:

“As many as 67 people got a flu shot…but now they might have HIV or hepatitis.”

On this news Facebook page, you could see things being shared in the twenties and hundreds for a larger story. This header though was close to 8000 and last I saw, it was still growing rapidly. What many people see when they read that lead in and share it with their friends is that flu shots lead to HIV or hepatitis, which just in case, it totally wrong in every way, shape, and form. Yes people should read, but that is exactly the message this news source wanted people to have by that title. Clickbait at its worse.

Congratulations, your clicks are going to cost people their lives.

Someone in that 8000 shares and many more views will be someone’s grandmother who is slightly immuocompromised, but not bad enough to not get the vaccine. But grandma won’t get the shot or the mist. She won’t get it because she doesn’t want to get “the AIDS” as she calls it. Grandma might get flu and with declining health, you pray that won’t be the final straw.

Someone in that 8000 shares and many more views will be someone’s child that won’t get a flu vaccination and will get the flu. The child will 99.999% survive, but Mom and Dad had to miss a lot of work, including that shift that might pay for Santa’s gifts, or worse yet, dinner because poverty is alive and well.

Someone in that 8000 shares and many more views will be someone else’s child who did not get any vaccinations because their parents think in general, that other vaccines lead to HIV. This unfortunate child might get another easily preventable disease or cause an immuocompromised kid that can’t mount an immune response to get really sick.

These scenarios are made up of course, but the comments to the post make what I am writing very likely possibilities. You can sensationalize celebrity gossip with who is dating who, or by saying look at “this pretty celebrity looking great on the red carpet”, but when you mess with science, you mess with real people’s lives.

Unfortunately, there will always be someone after clicks. We need to be better educated, read things before we share them, and call a spade a spade. #SPEAKUPSCIENTISTS and EVERYONE else. We also need to know that VACCINES SAVE LIVES!! But more to my point, respected news outlets, specifically the local ones, need to have more integrity than that.



New Science Sound Bites Podcast – Preventing a Total Eclipse of the Heart

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Hey Podcast Listeners

Talk about a real lifesaver!! In this podcast, I interview Dr. Monique Anderson, a cardiologist from D-U-K-E University GO BLUE DEVILS!!! Whaaaat…try spending 4 years in the band and not be a fan. Dr. Anderson was one of the wonderful people I met at the Future Leaders Research Conference sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. (And yes, I actually did run into Francis Collins!). Anyway I hope you enjoy episode #14 called Preventing a Total Eclipse of the Heart. We will see how many of your students get that reference.

Terms we go over are:
Biology of the Heart
Cardiac arrest
Heart attack
Blood flow
Coronary artery
Public responsibility
Heart rhythm
Heart voltage
Intercalated cells
Health disparities

Cheers everyone,

P.S. Because I just couldn’t help myself and brag on her, check out this amazing story about her.