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An evidence-based resource for journalists

Autism News Beat header image 2

More Jennymania

November 11th, 2007 · 2 Comments · Careless sourcing, Useful idiots

Some journalists have difficulty digesting keynote speeches at autism conferences, especially when Hollywood celebrities are involved. I believe this phenomenon can be explained by the “The Leaky Gut Theory” of autism reporting.

It has to do with the way reporters swallow what they hear. Neurotypical reporters have what are called “critical thinking filters” that prevent certain words from entering their digestive tracts too quickly. A normal functioning reporter is skeptical, and takes time to confirm what he is told. But reporters with leaky guts lack that filter, and swallow everything they hear. This causes problems when half truths, which are smaller than whole truths, escape through holes in the reporter’s intestines and enter the bloodstream. The resulting “opioid effect” results in lead paragraphs like this:

Actress Jenny McCarthy’s best-selling memoir of raising and healing a child with autism has drawn much attention to the developmental disorder — along with a fair amount of debate over the validity of her approach.

McCarthy, in Atlanta on Friday as the keynote speaker of the National Autism Conference, couldn’t care less about the latter.

A neurotypical reporter would make the connection between the “validity of her approach” and “the honesty of what is being said”, and run with it.

But a leaky gut reporter, such as Carley Dryden of the Los Angeles Daily News, cannot make that connection. Where most of us see a shameless, dim-witted greedhead in a designer dress, Dryden’s senses are literally overwhelmed by a blond, bubbly, Jim Carrey-dating actress with legions of admirers. Stripped of her critical thinking filter, Dryden is doomed to a hellish abyss, perseverating on anecdotes and quotes such as this:

“Standard academics will just bash [the diet] because they don’t know anything about it,” said Dr. Daniel Amen, a nationally recognized psychiatrist and brain imaging expert with a clinic based in Newport Beach.

Neurotypical reporters recognize the dishonesty in Amen’s words – academics generally reserve “bashing” for something that hasn’t been proven. But poor, addle-pated Dryden only hears words, nice words, words that comfort and support. Words that tell the story of brave, imperiled Jenny McCarthy, ankle deep in the raging Pierian Spring, clinging to Larry King’s suspenders, holding fast against the currents of science and reason. Don’t let go, Jenny! We need you!

Won’t anybody listen?



2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 isles // Nov 12, 2007 at 12:27 am

    Bring in the chelators, stat!

    But seriously. I see more incisive journalism in our university student newspaper. When did investigative journalism turn into lapdoggery? (Around the time, I suppose, when the the Investigative Reporters & Editors gave an award to David Kirby.)

  • 2 Timelord // Nov 12, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    It’s called sensation mongering, Isles. It’s what those so-called investigative journalists live on. If it’s mundane – they don’t bother. Autism being genetic in origin is mundane, because we’ve known that for decades. It’s not news to a journo who wants to make an impression. Yes – it’s a bad attitude, but that’s the way they operate. Just like the paparazzi with their cameras – they are chasing a picture that causes a sensation.

    It’s about time that sort of thing was wiped out.

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