Correction o’ the Day (NYT Killer Cellphones Edition)

First came this Nick Bilton Disruptions column in Thursday’s New York Times.

New Gadgets, New Health Worries

19DISRUPTIONS-master675

In 1946, a new advertising campaign appeared in magazines with a picture of a doctor in a lab coat holding a cigarette and the slogan, “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.” No, this wasn’t a spoof. Back then, doctors were not aware that smoking could cause cancer, heart disease and lung disease.

In a similar vein, some researchers and consumers are now asking whether wearable computers will be considered harmful in several decades’ time.

We have long suspected that cellphones, which give off low levels of radiation, could lead to brain tumors, cancer, disturbed blood rhythms and other health problems if held too close to the body for extended periods.

Then came this Editors’ Note in Saturday’s Times.

STYLES

The Disruptions column in the Styles section on Thursday, discussing possible health concerns related to wearable technology, gave an inadequate account of the status of research about cellphone radiation and cancer risk.

Neither epidemiological nor laboratory studies have found reliable evidence of such risks, and there is no widely accepted theory as to how they might arise. According to the World Health Organization, “To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.” The American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have all said there is no convincing evidence for a causal relationship. While researchers are continuing to study possible risks, the column should have included more of this background for balance.

In addition, one source quoted in the article, Dr. Joseph Mercola, has been widely criticized by experts for his claims about disease risks and treatments. More of that background should have been included, or he should not have been cited as a source.

An early version of the headline for the article online — “Could Wearable Computers Be as Harmful as Cigarettes?” — also went too far in suggesting any such comparison.

Ya think? Call our cellphone if you disagree.

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2 Responses to Correction o’ the Day (NYT Killer Cellphones Edition)

  1. Curmudgeon says:

    Did you follow Public Editor Margret Sullivan’s coverage of this?

    Shows the power of the Public Editor. Shows the remarkable abilities of Ms. Sullivan in the role.

  2. Campaign Outsider says:

    I guess I’m a little slow tonight, Mudge, ’cause I’m not getting your point here. Seems to me Sullivan did her due diligence: Asked the parties in question to account for their decisions and reported them to Times readers. She doesn’t get to edit the work, and she doesn’t get to inflict consequences on the reporters and editors (although there was that self-flagellating correction, yeah?).

    She’s not judge, jury, and executioner – she’s the readers’ representative, the one who tries to hold the Times to account.

    Over all, I think Sullivan has done a pretty good job so far. No?

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