When news reporting doesn't do its job

By Katharine Swan On Monday, March 06, 2006 At 6:18 PM


Although the headline "Teen didn't die from peanut-butter kiss" got my attention, I didn't feel like I knew anything more conclusive after reading the article than before. It definitely seems to me - as it does all too often when I'm reading news "reports" - that the article didn't actually answer any questions. The article claims that the girl, kissed by her boyfriend several hours after eating some peanut butter, did not die from her peanut allergy, but rather from lack of oxygen to her brain. However, it doesn't really say what she did die from, since many different circumstances - including her peanut allergy - could have cause a lack of oxygen to her brain. In fact, the article itself says that a peanut allergy can cause swelling in a person's throat, effectively shutting off their breathing. But the article doesn't address whether there was an allergic reaction that could have caused this response.

Of course, all of the excitement in the article about the drug used to combat allergic reactions may explain the cryptic article, if one reads between the lines. The drug company was concerned that the incident might shake other people's faith in their product, so they probably insisted on a news release that denied the girl died from an allergic reaction (i.e. it wasn't the drug's fault for failing to prevent the reaction). Most people know the inordinate amount of power the drug companies are given in today's world; is it so much of a leap to think they could dictate what hits the news stands, as well?

Think I'm paranoid or a conspiracy theorist? Well, note that the article, while it insisted she didn't die from her allergy, didn't say anything to refute the idea that she died from a condition her allergy produced. In fact, it really didn't say anything about how she died at all. How did her brain stop receiving oxygen? The article implicates her asthma, but it doesn't say she had an asthma attack. Did her boyfriend suffocate her? Did she hold her breath until she died? Come on, now, folks, we're all smart enough to realize when your "answer" doesn't actually answer anything!

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Katharine Swan is a full-time freelance writer with more than 5 years of professional writing experience. In addition to maintaining several personal blogs, she writes a variety of online marketing materials for clients, including company blogs, articles, and press releases. In her free time, she spends time with her horse, reads, and writes fiction.

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