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Journalists getting their facts right when it can seriously affect someone's health


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#1 FeralZombieMum

Posted 12 July 2019 - 07:37 PM

Should journalists take extra care when 'reporting' about products when it comes to ones health?

Just had a post pop up on my facebook page, in regards to an article in the Herald Sun, titled "The guilt-free free croissants flying off the shelves".
www.heraldsun.com.au\leader\north\the-french-pastry-from-italy-thats-flying-off-the-shelves

The first paragraph says:
"Meet the gluten-free, dairy-free, no added sugar vegan pastry taking over Melbourne."

It then goes on to say:
"Unable to find a producer for the spelt-based product in Australia, he outsourced the production to Italy and now imports thousands every month."

Spelt isn't gluten free.

The packaging for the croissants (found on the maker's facebook page), state they are free from wheat - so they aren't claiming it's gluten free.

It seems the reporter from the Herald Sun, Richard Pearce, has misunderstood "free from wheat" means "gluten free". Now we're going to have people getting sick because people will read the article, and go buy this product.

From our own experience, many years ago my DD was quite sick because someone gave her bread they insisted was gluten free - it was made with spelt flour.

Surely reporters do some fact checking before having their work published, when getting it wrong can have serious consequences for their readers?

Edited by FeralZombieMum, 12 July 2019 - 08:21 PM.


#2 Lucrezia Borgia

Posted 12 July 2019 - 07:42 PM

i work for a media outlet..not Herald Sun....and we do do checks, we don’t always get it right and when we don’t we expect an editorial complaint (and getting a bollocking from Paul Barry on MediaWatch) - make a complaint. they should have processes stated - maybe on their website? for making a complaint. or complain to ACMA - they should be held to a higher standard when it’s stories concerning allergies or potential adverse health impacts.

#3 Bam1

Posted 12 July 2019 - 07:43 PM

Wouldn’t you check the packaging yourself though if gluten does make you sick?  I maybe would go there on the word of the journalist and then be annoyed that I couldn’t have the croissant.

#4 Jane Jetson

Posted 12 July 2019 - 07:47 PM

Oh dear. That's not ideal.

Look, that's a pretty basic error and you'd expect him to have a look before he went off half-cocked. But, you also need to consider that:

* The news cycle is so fast now that journos are trotting out a whole bunch of stories without time to fact check, and without time to sub their own work (which is now expected) and if they can't output enough, there's others who can.

* All the fact checkers got sacked a long time ago.

* All the sub-editors got sacked or outsourced a long time ago.

* Newsrooms now have a fraction of the journos they used to, who are expected to do much more work than each individual was expected in the past.

* Specialty is a thing of the past. Even health reporters generally have very little health training. Science reporting is the worst. The amount of rodent studies that get extrapolated and reported as fact is ridiculous.

Everyone expects journalism to be free, and employers don't want to pay anyone. You're not going to get quality work with that mindset.

Journalism these days is basically along the lines of how we on EB describe nursing and midwifery (though less vital) - less people, more work, higher expectations, less safeguards, more blame.

#5 kadoodle

Posted 12 July 2019 - 07:49 PM

 Bam1, on 12 July 2019 - 07:43 PM, said:

Wouldn’t you check the packaging yourself though if gluten does make you sick?  I maybe would go there on the word of the journalist and then be annoyed that I couldn’t have the croissant.

I’d be very narky if I read about a new product that was safe for me to eat, only to find out that it wasn’t.

Complain, OP. Someone who’s not as thorough as you could end up getting sick from this product.

#6 FeralZombieMum

Posted 12 July 2019 - 07:52 PM

 Bam1, on 12 July 2019 - 07:43 PM, said:

Wouldn’t you check the packaging yourself though if gluten does make you sick?  I maybe would go there on the word of the journalist and then be annoyed that I couldn’t have the croissant.

It's second nature to check ingredients on the package.

Unfortunately the issue is where other people read this (ie family and friends), who rely more on statements about products being gluten free. That's where the risk lies.

It was family feeding my DD that made her sick. We were at a family gathering and I said I needed to read the ingredients first, but was told they'd thrown the packet out. I said I didn't think it was gluten free by the look and feel of the bread - it was just like normal bread. I made it clear I didn't want her to be fed it, because we didn't know what the ingredients were. Unfortunately they gave her some when I was out of the room, and told her it was safe to eat.

DD was 5 at the time, and had only been diagnosed 6 months earlier. She thought she could trust family members. Unfortunately she learnt that this meant she would be throwing up and suffering severe cramps for the next few hours.

#7 born.a.girl

Posted 12 July 2019 - 07:53 PM

 kadoodle, on 12 July 2019 - 07:49 PM, said:

I’d be very narky if I read about a new product that was safe for me to eat, only to find out that it wasn’t.

Complain, OP. Someone who’s not as thorough as you could end up getting sick from this product.


If you were gluten-free (in a serious coeliac way) you'd surely know that spelt is not gluten free - and the article clearly mentions spelt.

I think it's a case of don't read the HUN for factual information, more than anything else.

I can't fathom why anyone would pay for a subscription.

#8 born.a.girl

Posted 12 July 2019 - 07:58 PM

 FeralZombieMum, on 12 July 2019 - 07:52 PM, said:

It's second nature to check ingredients on the package.

Unfortunately the issue is where other people read this (ie family and friends), who rely more on statements about products being gluten free. That's where the risk lies.

It was family feeding my DD that made her sick. We were at a family gathering and I said I needed to read the ingredients first, but was told they'd thrown the packet out. I said I didn't think it was gluten free by the look and feel of the bread - it was just like normal bread. I made it clear I didn't want her to be fed it, because we didn't know what the ingredients were. Unfortunately they gave her some when I was out of the room, and told her it was safe to eat.

DD was 5 at the time, and had only been diagnosed 6 months earlier. She thought she could trust family members. Unfortunately she learnt that this meant she would be throwing up and suffering severe cramps for the next few hours.


Fair point.

#9 FeralZombieMum

Posted 12 July 2019 - 08:03 PM

 Jane Jetson, on 12 July 2019 - 07:47 PM, said:

* All the fact checkers got sacked a long time ago.

* All the sub-editors got sacked or outsourced a long time ago.

* Newsrooms now have a fraction of the journos they used to, who are expected to do much more work than each individual was expected in the past.

I am aware of all of the above, but it isn't that difficult to get this right.

The packaging of the product doesn't claim it to be gluten free.
The manufacturer's facebook page and website don't make claims that it's gluten free.

Did the 'journalist' throw in gluten free just to get the attention of readers?

#10 Lucrezia Borgia

Posted 12 July 2019 - 08:04 PM

JJ has a point - newsrooms have been decimated - i’m in legal but we get stories to check that haven’t been subbed - and court reports - which have to be fair and accurate - and we ask “was this all said today in open court in the presence of the jury?” - sometimes the reporter awkwardly pauses and says “I actually don’t know, we couldn’t send anyone, i’m getting this off local media”. it’s not ideal.


#11 FeralZombieMum

Posted 12 July 2019 - 08:15 PM

 born.a.girl, on 12 July 2019 - 07:53 PM, said:

If you were gluten-free (in a serious coeliac way) you'd surely know that spelt is not gluten free - and the article clearly mentions spelt.

Some doctors think spelt is gluten free.

I once had a conversation in the health food section of Coles, as an elderly couple were trying to find suitable gluten free products - one of them had just been diagnosed as coeliac.

Their doctor told them spelt was safe for coeliacs because it didn't contain gluten.

#12 Not Escapin Xmas

Posted 12 July 2019 - 08:36 PM

FMZ, best thing to do is contact the newspaper and tell them so they can fix it. Via FB is an easy way.

#13 mylittlemen

Posted 12 July 2019 - 08:46 PM

 Bam1, on 12 July 2019 - 07:43 PM, said:

Wouldn’t you check the packaging yourself though if gluten does make you sick?  I maybe would go there on the word of the journalist and then be annoyed that I couldn’t have the croissant.

I check every single thing that goes into my coeliac sons mouth. Unfortunately relatives see stuff like this and try to slip them the product “so they don’t miss out”. I still remember the fall out from my SIL when I wouldn’t let my son eat the spelt bread she kept trying to slip into his mouth every time I looked elsewhere. Apparently I was being hysterical.

#14 just roses

Posted 12 July 2019 - 08:47 PM

 Lucrezia Borgia, on 12 July 2019 - 08:04 PM, said:

JJ has a point - newsrooms have been decimated - i’m in legal but we get stories to check that haven’t been subbed - and court reports - which have to be fair and accurate - and we ask “was this all said today in open court in the presence of the jury?” - sometimes the reporter awkwardly pauses and says “I actually don’t know, we couldn’t send anyone, i’m getting this off local media”. it’s not ideal.
Holy crap. That’s a worry. We drum it into reporters that nothing goes to legal until it’s been subbed.

And I’m as bothered that they’d take the word of local media as I am by the fact they’d run court  yarns without going to court. Yikes.

But also, everything JJ said.

One of my reporters had started in Daily Mail - that place is just a factory. When they’re not copying and pasting other people’s stories, they’re churning out their ‘own’, several an hour. It’s madness.

Edited by just roses, 12 July 2019 - 08:48 PM.


#15 Aribika

Posted 12 July 2019 - 08:52 PM

 FeralZombieMum, on 12 July 2019 - 08:03 PM, said:

I am aware of all of the above, but it isn't that difficult to get this right.

The packaging of the product doesn't claim it to be gluten free.
The manufacturer's facebook page and website don't make claims that it's gluten free.

Did the 'journalist' throw in gluten free just to get the attention of readers?

Yes.  You hit the nail on the head with your last question.

#16 FeralZombieMum

Posted 12 July 2019 - 08:57 PM

 Not Escapin Xmas, on 12 July 2019 - 08:36 PM, said:

FMZ, best thing to do is contact the newspaper and tell them so they can fix it. Via FB is an easy way.

Someone in the FB group has said they've contacted the coeliac society to let them know.

#17 FeralZombieMum

Posted 12 July 2019 - 09:30 PM

 Lucrezia Borgia, on 12 July 2019 - 07:42 PM, said:

or complain to ACMA - they should be held to a higher standard when it’s stories concerning allergies or potential adverse health impacts.

ACMA seems to only cover broadcasting - tv and radio?

Do you have a link we could use?

#18 Lucrezia Borgia

Posted 12 July 2019 - 09:35 PM

 FeralZombieMum, on 12 July 2019 - 09:30 PM, said:



ACMA seems to only cover broadcasting - tv and radio?

Do you have a link we could use?

ah - sorry i was thinking in context of radio or tv....so they don’t cover print media....hmmmm, someone must regulate them though...


#19 Lucrezia Borgia

Posted 12 July 2019 - 09:39 PM

...any chance the Hun published that online as well? that might get us under ACMA...

sorry i see from your OP you linked it, so it’s online content ...i thought ACMA would regulate it....

Edited by Lucrezia Borgia, 12 July 2019 - 09:45 PM.


#20 Chaotic Pogo

Posted 12 July 2019 - 09:42 PM

Send it to media watch. They’ll roast them if they don’t very quickly publish a thorough correction.

#21 seayork2002

Posted 12 July 2019 - 10:19 PM

I am not a fan of the media and know it prints lies BUT no I would not take medical advice from an article, if a person does that I think they could have big problems.

Personal responsibility needs to come into play atleast  sometimes these days

Edited to add I am not saying kids have to be responsible (for some reason it is not obvious)

Edited by seayork2002, 13 July 2019 - 11:38 AM.


#22 FeralZombieMum

Posted 12 July 2019 - 10:34 PM

 seayork2002, on 12 July 2019 - 10:19 PM, said:

I am not a fan of the media and know it prints lies BUT no I would not take medical advice from an article, if a person does that I think they could have big problems.

Personal responsibility needs to come into play atleast  sometimes these days

You're saying little kids need to take personal responsibility?

Say a grandmother reads this article, and gets excited there is a gluten free croissant out there. She buys them for her coeliac grandchild who is having a sleep over.

Grandmother has been taught that in order to keep their grandchild safe, they have to feed them food that is gluten free. The parents do send gluten free food, but like many grandparents, sometimes it's nice to be able to buy a treat for the little one.

It's too complicated for someone to learn about reading ingredients when they aren't having to cater gluten free every day, hence the reliance on "gluten free" being the safe option to follow.

Plus due to Grandmother's poor eyesight, she isn't able to read tiny print ingredients on a packet, and her grandchild isn't old enough to read, or understand that things like barley, malt, spelt, wheat starch are not gluten free.

#23 tarrie cat

Posted 12 July 2019 - 10:35 PM

There is a body that covers print media but I've forgotten the name of it. However, it's a bit of a toothless tiger and can't/doesn't ever do much except issue weak slaps over the wrist. It's how the Daily Mail keeps ripping off other journos' work and passing it off as their own. But I have to say that even if this story was reported to the board (whatever its name is) it's one that wouldn't provoke much of a reaction which is unfortunate as there are health risks involved.

The journo in question should've done a little more research instead of taking what he was told on face value but as others have pointed out, all the print newsrooms across the country have been gutted. There's a fraction of journos employed, most of the subbies have been sacked and those that are still there don't have the time to double-check every story.

But this is what happens when people don't want to pay for news and the advertising channels that traditionally paid for papers have all but dried up or been diverted elsewhere.

Doesn't mean the journo shouldn't have done is his job better!

(All this coming from someone who has worked briefly as a journo and has an expensive piece of cardboard from studying it.)

Edited by tarrie cat, 12 July 2019 - 10:36 PM.


#24 lizzzard

Posted 12 July 2019 - 11:11 PM

Honestly...noone should rely on anything they read in a newspaper to be true. That's not to say everything is false, but noone should rely on anything being true. IMHO, newspapers really should have a disclaimer 'For entertainment purposes only'.

#25 Jane Jetson

Posted 12 July 2019 - 11:15 PM

 FeralZombieMum, on 12 July 2019 - 08:03 PM, said:


Did the 'journalist' throw in gluten free just to get the attention of readers?

Possibly, but it's also highly likely that they just don't know their stuff. Most people reporting on health used to have a health background, or they'd been doing health for a million years and knew their way around. Not the case any more. Again, the rodent studies, my God.

I do take issue with the inverted commas. Again, to use the nurse analogy - sorry nurses, I know you do far more important work than we do, no sarcasm involved, this is quite simply true - but if a nurse takes an hour to respond to your buzzing because she's dead on her feet on an understaffed ward, is she still a nurse, or has she become a "nurse"?

Many journos these days, particularly the young ones who get paid squat, quite simply aren't allowed to let themselves wallow in the background of a speciality (health/science/industrial relations/whatever) and learn their stuff, and are expected to be Jack or Jill of all trades at a stupid production rate - and as I said, the fact checkers and subs are gone from so many newsrooms so the trapeze net is gone. Errr, not pointing fingers at any particular very large News Corporations that I don't work for, here. Not at all...

 FeralZombieMum, on 12 July 2019 - 08:15 PM, said:


Their doctor told them spelt was safe for coeliacs because it didn't contain gluten.

See, I'd hope a doctor would know this more than some poor generalist journo who caught a health story.




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