Another day, another must-read post over at HealthNewsReview.org
This time, founder Gary Schwitzer explains how the alcohol industry is funding journalism to sway public opinion.
* “Just four days ago, the New York Times reported, “Is Alcohol Good for You? An Industry-Backed Study Seeks Answers.” [The article stated that] “Five companies that are among the world’s largest alcoholic beverage manufacturers — Anheuser-Busch InBev, Heineken, Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Carlsberg — have so far pledged $67.7 million to a foundation that raises money for the National Institutes of Health.”
* “The Times describes Harvard as the “hub of the clinical trial, and describes the school’s “long relationship with the alcoholic beverage industry, including a $3.3 million endowed professorship in psychiatry and behavioral science funded by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (FAAR), founded by distillers.”
* “That same FAAR foundation has also funded two journalism training workshops hosted by the Poynter Institute, a leading journalism training organization.”
* “Apparently all expenses for attendees were paid by the foundation, as the program disclosed: “This workshop is free thanks to the support of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.” The Foundation CEO, Ralph Blackman, spoke to the journalists who attended.”
* “The questions I’d ask the NIH are some of the same I’d ask the Poynter Institute, including:
1. Was it absolutely necessary that you accepted alcohol industry funding?
2. Did you exhaust all other options? Or did you gravitate towards the alcohol money because it was easy money?
3. Did you consider the conflicts of interest inherent in this funding arrangement?
4. What did you do to mitigate the conflicts of interest?”
* “The Poynter Institute is setting a bad example and delivering the wrong message to journalists – that it is OK to accept industry funding to further the cause of special interests in the health care field. Even if the agenda was chosen by Poynter and even if they say the funding came with no strings attached, there is a cloud hanging over the arrangement.”
* “My Poynter contact trotted out the same tired old false dichotomy that simply doesn’t apply in such cases, writing, “if the alternative is no teaching at all, I don’t know that Poynter would be closer to fulfilling its mission.” But we are not discussing a choice between – option 1 – take industry money, or – option 2 (the only other option) – offer no teaching at all.”
Bingo! As we have always said regarding sponsorship of health organizations, the options are not “take money from The Sugar Association or don’t take money at all”. That kind of false dichotomy is cheap, incendiary rhetoric that does nothing to bring us closer to a solution.