The caveat in paragraph number 19*

Another day, another front page “cure” from the Daily Express:


The first two paragraphs from Jo Willey’s article sound just as hopeful as the headline:

THE secret of what causes high blood pressure has been unlocked in a dramatic breakthrough that could save millions of lives every year.

The discovery means treatment could be transformed with targeted drugs. This could slash the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

However, the hope conveyed by the headline and the first half of the article is stamped-out once and for all in the 19th paragraph, which includes a quote from Professor Jeremy Pearson, who is associate medical director for the British Heart Foundation:

“However, scientists are still a way off developing drugs that could help lower blood pressure by targeting someone’s genetic material.”

As most of you probably already know, the Express has quite an affinity for splashing news of so-called “cures” on it’s front pages. In fact, they do it so often, I’ve wondered whether they truly aspire to be a medical journal rather than a downmarket Daily Mail rip-off.

The problem is not the fact that the Express covers these stories; it’s the way it does so. Often, the stories splashed on their front pages are based on minor advancements or discoveries that could – emphasis on could – lead to genuinely groundbreaking treatments.

But they’re almost always presented in a way that is overly simplistic and overly hopeful – preferring sensational, attention-grabbing headlines to honest and accurate reporting.

* The title of this post is taken from an article written by Ben Goldacre in which he describes the habit newspapers have of leaving the truth about a medical “cure” until the 19th paragraph.


Filed under Media and journalism

2 Responses to The caveat in paragraph number 19*

  1. Take a look at my post the other day, and the incredible love/hate relationship they have with aspirin.

  2. CTD

    I’ve found an easier way to reduce blood pressure. Don’t read the Express or the Mail. Simple.

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