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A reminder to those who write about research: “Candor is essential, but so is perspective”

A reminder to those who write about research: "Candor is essential, but so is perspective"

I’m a few days late to this, but a recent Health News Review blog entry shares the views of a cancer survivor who took issue with the headline on a press release about a new cancer study. The headline highlighted a possible link between lymphoma treatment and stomach-cancer risk, and reading it made this woman feel “like someone punched me in the gut.” As she wrote to blogger Gary Schwitzer:

Putting such a headline in a publication available to the lay public creates an unnecessary threat of anxiety to patients who’ve already suffered a great deal.

I’m not a medical professional and don’t pretend to have the background necessary to understand these things, but it seems as though it’s unnecessarily scary.

As someone who writes about medical research for a living, I took note of her comments. Though it’s my job to report on study findings - even the potentially scary ones - I need to be mindful of how readers will interpret what I’m writing and what they’ll walk away with. “Scientific candor is essential, but so is perspective,” the woman (rightly) notes.

Previously: What made science blogger Ed Yong “a better, more empathetic” journalist and Want to become a better science communicator? Try explaining science to a child

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