Friday, May 30, 2008

The health of journalism.

I picked up a “Time” magazine in the doctor’s office waiting room today. Remarkably it was a current issue; most waiting room magazines are, well… old. Anyway, the big story in “Time” was about John McCain’s health. More specifically, the story was an analysis of how John McCain’s health could affect his run for office. Several polls were cited in the article in order to assess public confidence in whether McCain was healthy enough to be president.

And what exactly was McCain’s serious health issue? Eight years ago he had a melanoma removed from his skin. It’s usually a five-minute procedure which is then treated with a band aid! Why his took five-hours is anybody’s guess – open heart surgery takes five hours. I’ll wager the reported got minutes and hours mixed up. Journalists often have trouble keeping their facts straight.

Yes I know… melanoma can be a deadly cancer if it is not treated. My wife had such an incident. In fact, her primary care physician misdiagnosed the spot on her arm as a harmless mole. As is becoming all too unsettlingly common, I again found my medial knowledge superior to that of many physicians, so we had a dermatologist remove the mole. The pathology report came back: malignant melanoma! (My wife doesn’t see that physician any more, by the way).

It really pains me when journalists are so bent on doing journalism that they create a story where there is none. And John McCain’s fitness to be commander-in-chief is in no way threatened or impaired by virtue of The Media crafting of a Health issue”. Now I can list a number of other reasons which, in my opinion, cause me to believe John McCain is a less than desirable choice to be president. But his having the foresight to have a “potentially” dangerous mole scratched off his skin is not one of them.

I understand that "Time" has magazines to sell. I also know that journalists need to write just as fish need to fly and birds need to swim. [Yes, I know what I said] But often there is no story there – and there is no issue with McCain’s fitness for the presidency here, at least, where his health is concerned.

Here is a story suggestion for
“Time”, (or any other journalist out there, for that matter) - Do an article on how many Americans die each year of melanoma because they don’t have health coverage or the money to visit a dermatologist. Or would that require too much writing?


Kara said...

i didn't read the article, but i have to say, it would be interesting to read an article on the obsession over health and it's relation to the public office. we've been obsessed with Cheney's health these 8 years...and maybe compare it to the ignorance concerning FDRs's an interesting phenomenon.

Mary Witzl said...

Or for that matter, they could do an article on how those suntanning parlors claim to be perfectly safe, but in fact are anything but. It's so hard to convince my kids that just because no one has closed those places down doesn't mean that they are okay.

I'm far less interested in McCain's melanoma than I am in how likely he is to escalate the war in Iraq.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Kara - Yes, apparently JFK also had medical issues; none so severe to keep him off of Marilyn Monroe, apparently. I think the reports of Cheney's heart issues were just to tease us progressives.

Mary - Talk about health and Iraq; yes most doctors advise that bullets entering the body are bad for one's health. We need to cure that one pronto!!

Kara said...

FDR dad, not JFK.

Mary Witzl said...

JFK had a lot of health issues, though -- Addison's disease, for which he required regular steroid injections, and chronic back pain. Which is no particular sin, but a lot of people resented the fact that he made political hay of his youth and vigorous good health.