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NPR Corrects Mistakes Over Conflict Story

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, March 25, 2009 4:40 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Conflict of Interest, Mental Health, GlaxoSmithKline, Antipsychotics, Pharmaceutical Industry

Producer for radio show tells NPR he didn't know about conflicting interests with radio host, NPR apologizes.

Bill Lichtenstein  

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IMAGE SOURCE: New York Times reporter,  Gardiner Harris on Dr. Goodwin

 

One of the rules of journalism is to correct mistakes quickly and prominently. 

That is what National Public Radio is doing.

Last November, it ran a story on the apparent conflict-of-interest by “The Infinite Mind" radio show host Dr. Fred Goodwin, and the $1.2 million in lecture fees from GlaxoSmithKline he received from 2000 to 2008. At the same time his radio show reported on issues of mental health and medications used to alter behavior.

The show’s producer, Bill Lichtenstein, of Lichtenstein Creative Media in Cambridge, Mass., wants the record set straight, specifically something reported on "NPR's "On The Media"

National Public Radio has corrected and apologized for its report on "The Infinite Mind,” specifically accusing  executive producer, Lichtenstein of knowing that Dr. Goodwin was taking money from the very subjects of the show.

Lichtenstein is sending out a press release in an attempt to clear the air. It says:

“In its on-air correction (http://onthemedia.org/transcripts/2009/03/13/05), "On The Media's" host, Brooke Gladstone, apologized for what she called the "lapse of journalistic judgment" in the report, which relied on an unnamed source to corroborate Goodwin's claim that Lichtenstein was aware of the speaking fees.

“In its correction, "On The Media" acknowledged that, contrary to what was originally reported by the show, the anonymous source says she has "no first-hand evidence that (Lichtenstein) knew of any fees." Gladstone added that "The Infinite Mind" says it "had always adhered to standard journalism practice in vetting guests and disclosing conflicts of interest."

Apparently the usually outstanding NPR failed to get a comment from Lichtenstein who has disavowed any knowledge of the fees Dr. Goodwin’s admits collecting from the pharmaceutical industry. For his part, Dr. Goodwin doesn't see that as a conflict.

“Lichtenstein emphatically insisted that at no point was he aware of the work that Dr. Fred Goodwin had done for GlaxoSmithKline while Fred Goodwin was hosting The Infinite Mind, and that if it had been known, Fred Goodwin would have been dismissed immediately.”

Lichtenstein says reporters failed to press Fred Goodwin for any evidence that he shared his conflict with Lichtenstein.

For the record- Injuryboard reported on the conflict and did a separate story with Lichtenstein and included his point of view in November.

NPR’s Brookstone said that failing to contact Lichtenstein for his side of the story was "a mistake, it wasn't fair and it didn't serve our listeners."

It was Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley who uncovered the conflict of interest. Dr. Goodwin was the first media figure uncovered by Sen. Grassley who, as the Senate Finance Committee’s ranking member, has focused his investigation on conflicts between leading academics such as Harvard’s Dr. Joseph Biederman and Emory University’s Dr. Charles Nemeroff, both psychiatrists who promoted antipsychotics while taking consulting fees from industry.

The Infinite Mind” stopped production at the end of last year after ten years of reports on human behavior and the science of the mind and the body. Leaders in mental health and neuroscience were featured along with authors, and musicians. The show received 30 major broadcast journalism awards.

The show was independently produced and distributed to public radio stations, and NPR aired the series on the Sirius Satellite channel.  

Lichtenstein is concerned about drug money influencing newsroom decisions. Questions need to be raised that increase transparency regarding potential conflict of interest involving the pharmaceutical industry and journalists and commentators, he says. 

“Journalism as a field continues to rely on self-disclosure,” Lichtenstein says in a PRLog news release, “which clearly is not sufficient to identify cases like Fred Goodwin. “ #


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