Bill Doskoch: Media, BPS*, Film, Minutiae

Curated knowledge, trenchant insights & witty bon mots

Toronto Star ‘unpublishes’ controversial vaccine story

The Toronto Star has taken the rare but probably necessary step of “unpublishing” its controversial and disputed story on Gardasil, the vaccine for the human papilloma virus (HPV), from its website.

Publisher John Cruickshank announced the move late Friday on Twitter and in the Saturday Star. He concluded (in “A note from the publisher“):

All vaccines, including Gardasil, have side-effects. The better known they are, the more safely the vaccine can be deployed.

This is what the article sought to achieve as well as to note that acknowledged risks are not always properly communicated.

We remain committed to this line of reporting. However, we have concluded that in this case our story treatment led to confusion between anecdotes and evidence.

For that reason, the Gardasil story package of Feb. 5 will be removed from our website.

In other words, unpublished.

For more on the ethics of unpublishing, see this 2010 CAJ paper. The Poynter Institute offered this guidance in 2014: “If you must unpublish, here’s how to maintain credibility.”

Dr. Jen Gunter, who has an eponymous blog and who was a prominent critic of the story, didn’t seem wowed by the Star‘s move (“Autopsy of Toronto Star HPV article and the real dark side of Gardasil they missed“).

(… 15-day) delay aside, I am more troubled by the retraction’s carefully walking the line of being a real apology and a real retraction (or as a doctor friend of mine said, “Even in defeat they didn’t admit defeat”)

She has some additional thoughts on how the Star’s journalism on this subject fell short. Read them.

Sat, February 21 2015 » Main Page, Media