False Balance: Comparing
Two Points of View Does Not Make Them Equally Valid


Leonard Zwelling


         Liz Spayd, the author of this piece from Sunday’s  (9/11) NY
is the Times’ Public
Editor, a sort of ombudsman for the news gathering and reporting functions of
the paper. In other words, she’s the in-house overseer of how the rest of the
newspaper is doing its job.

         She writes about “fair balance,” what she defines as
journalists presenting both sides of a debate as if they are of equal
credibility, even when the facts are all supporting one side.

         Donald Trump gives us lots of opportunities as he equates
everything his opponents do with his own bad behavior, but it is Mrs. Clinton
who took this to a high art when she equated what she did having a private
server handling State Department emails with Secretary of State Colin Powell
having had a private email account, without his own server, 10 years before.
Not quite, Hillary. But there’s plenty of nonsense on both sides and this fair
balance is just the latest internet technique used to hide bad behavior in
plain sight by saying its not as bad as what the other guy (or gal) is doing.
This is definitely in the realm of 8-year olds on the playground.

         But I really don’t want to compare the two awful choices we
have for the Presidency. CNN, MSNBC, FOX, The
NY Times
and The Wall Street Journal are
doing more than enough of that right now using investigative journalism to see
who can top what the last scandal was. Health records, tax records and actual
accomplishments are left in the dust covered with innuendo and accusations of
bad acts and worse language. I won’t add to that.

         I would like to look at the ledger surrounding the leadership
of MD Anderson, however. The current leadership extols its virtues with claims
of number oneness and huge contracts with big pharma, but is that really the
path toward making cancer history? I think not.

         Here’s what I want to know:

         It’s been five years since Dr. DePinho became the MD
Anderson President. What are his accomplishments?

         How did that IBM Watson thing turn out and where is Lynda
Chin now anyway?

         Has the EMR paid off in either dollars or accuracy? Are
patients receiving better care since its introduction and how does the
leadership know that? And worse, if the leaders don’t know if the quality of
care is better, why not?

         Has IACS produced a drug that has been successfully
commercialized and has the model that convinced the Board of Regents to hire a
non-oncologist to lead a cancer center turned out well? If so, how?

         The False Balance struck between expensive commercials,
number one ranking and an ever-growing deficit and real progress against malignant
disease needs to be tallied properly. No bull. And surely an honest independent
assessment of the last five years by people outside the UT System is
indicated—and soon. If the Chronicle
won’t do it, as they seem disinclined to do, someone ought to.

         If someone did, I would surmise that the ledger would favor
a change in leadership because what these guys (and it’s mostly guys) are doing
simply isn’t working.

Leonard Zwelling