The satirical magazine Private Eye includes a regular column entitled “Street of Shame” covering the bed-swapping, political infighting and boozing that goes on amongst Fleet Street’s finest. You would have thought, then, that the departure of Roger Alton - editor of the Observer - after a series of “discussions” with Alan Rusbridger - editor of the Guardian would be grist to their mill.
Recently the Observercarried a ludicrous story featuring South African crank Danie Krugel’s intervention in the Madelaine McCann saga. They featured his claim that he could locate anyone on Earth by putting a sample of their DNA into his DNA reader coupled to a satnav device. This claim was repeated uncritically as fact in a serious news story.
A few weeks ago the Observer carried a front page story based on a leaked research paper and trumpeting the discredited link between MMR and autism. The story was written by a sports reporter with no previous experience in science reporting, showed a lack of understanding of the research data and totally misrepresented the views of named scientists. An internet storm ensued, followed by a editorial “clarification” which perpetuated the errors in the original article, despite postings on the papers website from the scientist concerned demanding a retraction of the traducement of her views. You won’t find any of this now because when their position became untenable, the Observer simply deleted the whole farce from their website in true Ministry of Truth style.
Sloppy journalism, infighting, confrontations and a sudden departure. None of this has been covered.
It has to be admitted that Private Eye is good at exposing conflicts of interest, particularly financial, amongst the great and not-so-good. What, then, should they make of a researcher who – eighteen months before publishing a controversial paper – had submitted a proposal to the Legal Aid Board which could only amount to anything if the cotroversial paper’s conclusions were accepted? What should we expect them to publish about a researcher who had an undeclared interest in the patent of a product which would only be of use if his controversial findings were accepted? What we got was nothing.
The researcher in question is Dr Andrew Wakefield who had made a submission to the British government’s Legal Aid Board eighteen months before the publication of his cotroversial Lancet paper. He was on a retainer to Richard Barr of Alexander Harris Solicitors and has an interest in the patent of a measles single vaccine – which would only have a chance of mass production if the MMR vaccine were to be phased out. The full details can be found at
Could Private Eye‘s silence on both these issues have anything to do with their trumpeting of St Andrew Wakefield and his campaign against MMR in favour of single vaccines? In words Eye staffers would use, I think we should be told.