Skip to Content

Paul Raeburn's Tracker

It was startling news, but an easy story to write: Scientists have discovered a new body part! Amazing, isn't it, that something could have eluded us since the time of Hippocrates?

Well, it would be amazing, except for one little detail, a detail so trivial I'm embarrassed to bring it up: It isn'...

It was startling news, but an easy story to write: Scientists have discovered a new body part! Amazing, isn't it, that something could have eluded us since the time of Hippocrates?

Well, it would be amazing, except for one little detail, a detail so trivial I'm embarrassed to bring it up: It isn't true.

But, hey, it's an unusually warm Thursday in New York, I'm feeling good about life, so let's give the journalists who bungled this story a break.

Why? Because in order to discover that the story wasn't true, they would have had to dig down all the way to the very first line of the study's abstract, which says, "In 1879, the French surgeon Segond described the existence of a 'pearly, resistant, fibrous band' at the anterolateral aspect of the human knee..."

That's the body part in question, as...

[Lest I be accused of missing the lede, this update: Hillary Rosner, who won the AAAS award for pupfish, also won awards this year from the Society of Environmental Journalists and the...

[Lest I be accused of missing the lede, this update: Hillary Rosner, who won the AAAS award for pupfish, also won awards this year from the Society of Environmental Journalists and the National Association of Science Writers. Nice hat trick. And if you see her coming, duck!]

Stories about the Devil's Hole pupfish, crowd-sourced solutions to protein-folding problems, and black lung in miners were among the winners of the 2013 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards, the American Association for the Advancement of Science announced today.

The abbreviated list of winners follows. You can learn more about them from the AAAS press release:

Large Newspaper: Circulation of 100,000 or More...

At the annual meeting of the National Association of Science Writers last weekend in Gainesville, Fla., a rumor circulated that the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard might be resuming its popular...

At the annual meeting of the National Association of Science Writers last weekend in Gainesville, Fla., a rumor circulated that the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard might be resuming its popular conference on narrative journalism, which was suspended several years ago.

It's not true.

I emailed Nieman's curator, Anne Marie Lipinski, to ask her about it. "Our narrative plans are evolving, but we're unlikely to plan an encore of that same conference," she said, with no further elaboration.

-Paul Raeburn

[Updates with link to Chris Arnade's Flickr page.]

"I write, I listen, I research, I tell stories. Mostly just listen. I don't think we listen without judgment enough," writes Cassie Rodenberg...

[Updates with link to Chris Arnade's Flickr page.]

"I write, I listen, I research, I tell stories. Mostly just listen. I don't think we listen without judgment enough," writes Cassie Rodenberg, introducing her Scientific American blog The White Noise. "I explore marginalized things we like to ignore. Addiction and mental illness is The White Noise behind many lives -- simply what Is."

What she doesn't say is that the place where she goes to listen can be as dangerous as a war zone--Hunt's Point, in New York's South Bronx.

It's home to the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center, which...

The American Society for Human Genetics has just concluded its annual meeting, and as David Dobbs points out in Slate, the...

The American Society for Human Genetics has just concluded its annual meeting, and as David Dobbs points out in Slate, the news is exciting:

Geneticists are sequencing and analyzing genomes ever faster and more precisely. In the last year alone, the field has quintupled the rate at which it identifies genes for rare diseases. These advances are leading to treatments and cures for obscure illnesses that doctors could do nothing about only a few years ago, as well as genetic tests that allow prospective parents to bear healthy children instead of suffering miscarriage after miscarriage.

But this isn't the whole story, as Dobbs explains in this insightful piece. Genetics has over promised what it can do for medicine for decades, most spectacularly in...

Paul Raeburn
Share

Advocates and supporters of the Affordable Care Act had a tough day today, wincing as they watched Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of Medicare and Medicaid,...

Advocates and supporters of the Affordable Care Act had a tough day today, wincing as they watched Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of Medicare and Medicaid, apologize for the failure of the Obamacare website and promise that it would be fixed.

You might expect the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal to pit its own expert against the Obama administration, seizing on this opportunity to argue for the dismantling of the program. And it did: Its blog The Experts delivered a blistering guest post by an "expert" on health care: Suzanne Somers, the developer of the Suzanne Somers Toning System with ThighMaster Gold and ButtMaster,  and the former...

It doesn't come as a great surprise that if you hire hackers to discover your social security number or other personal information, they will probably succeed. We've heard enough horror stories to know that's true.

Still, I was fascinated by...

It doesn't come as a great surprise that if you hire hackers to discover your social security number or other personal information, they will probably succeed. We've heard enough horror stories to know that's true.

Still, I was fascinated by a story by Adam L. Penenberg, the editor of the tech news site Pandodaily, who hired hackers to investigate him--and was surprised, and even humbled, by what they found out. And Penenberg is a savvy guy. He's a professor of journalism at New York University, and he's read all the stories about what hackers can do--but he found their attack on him "chilling."

The fascination is in the details--the stakeouts, the strategically misplaced thumb drive, the cons, and the surprises.

"What I learned," he writes, "is...

Paul Raeburn
Share

[Disclosure: My wife, Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn, contributes regularly to MedPage Today.]

I was so outraged by the content of John Fauber's and Kristina Fiore's story this morning in...

[Disclosure: My wife, Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn, contributes regularly to MedPage Today.]

I was so outraged by the content of John Fauber's and Kristina Fiore's story this morning in MedPage Today and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that I'm finding it difficult to comment on the fine reporting. (The two publications have an agreement to work together on some stories.)

The FDA, they report, has approved a new, high-dose opioid painkiller that the agency...

In "The Cost of Living" in New York Magazine, the science writer Stephen S. Hall tries to explain why cancer drugs cost so much.

He goes through the familiar litany of drugs with excessive prices...

In "The Cost of Living" in New York Magazine, the science writer Stephen S. Hall tries to explain why cancer drugs cost so much.

He goes through the familiar litany of drugs with excessive prices that give patients only an extra few weeks of life expectancy. Even for those who have heard these kinds of numbers before, they seem incredible. Avastin, a drug that has proven to be effective against advanced colon cancer, costs about $5,000 a month and extends median overall survival by 42 days. And it has to be taken for months to give patients those 42 days.

Hall quotes an oncologist who does the math to figure out what the cost of Avastin is for a year of life saved. The answer: $303,000, according to Hall.

Why, asks Hall, is the price so high? Avastin is not an outlier; newer drugs cost multiples of what Avastin does.

Hall talks about efforts by...

From The New York Times:

More than 20 years ago, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck ordered coffee at a McDonald’s drive-through in Albuquerque, N.M. She spilled the coffee, was burned, and one year later, sued McDonald’s. The jury awarded her $2.9 million. Her story...

From The New York Times:

More than 20 years ago, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck ordered coffee at a McDonald’s drive-through in Albuquerque, N.M. She spilled the coffee, was burned, and one year later, sued McDonald’s. The jury awarded her $2.9 million. Her story became a media sensation and fodder for talk-show hosts, late-night comedians, sitcom writers and even political pundits...

The case was legendary, and the lesson we learned from it was something like this: A clumsy woman who spilled coffee on herself was able to extract millions from McDonald's with the help of a crafty lawyer. It was a rip-off. Even people who never ate at McDonald's might have felt a little sorry for the people laboring under the Golden Arches.

In one of its often superb video Retro Reports, the Times looks...

In late September, Jeff Gerth and T. Christian Miller of the non-profit investigative news site ProPublica wrote a 10,000-word story, "Use Only as Directed," on the...

In late September, Jeff Gerth and T. Christian Miller of the non-profit investigative news site ProPublica wrote a 10,000-word story, "Use Only as Directed," on the risks of liver damage and death from acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. The story also reported that the FDA has been slow to take action that could have prevented some of these illnesses and deaths.

A 6,000-word sidebar, "Dose of Confusion," told a heartbreaking tale of the damage that an overdose of Tylenol can do to children. Miller and Gerth also followed up with a Sept. 23 story reporting the results of a nationwide poll ProPublica commissioned on the...

Mariette DiChristina, the editor-in-chief of Scientific American, has provided further details on the magazine's abrupt decision on Oct. 11 to take down a blog post by Danielle Lee...

Mariette DiChristina, the editor-in-chief of Scientific American, has provided further details on the magazine's abrupt decision on Oct. 11 to take down a blog post by Danielle Lee describing an incident in which an editor--from Biology-Online.org, not Scientific American--described her as "an urban whore" when she asked to be paid for a guest post.

Saying she regrets failing to "promptly and fully communicate our intentions," DiChristina said, "we noticed a serious allegation was being made and that a person and a company were being named.  This meant we were concerned about possible libel and consequences." You can see the statement here (scroll...

In the face of multiple allegations of sexual harassment, and after admitting to harassment, Bora Zivkovic has resigned as blog editor at Scientific American, the magazine said today...

In the face of multiple allegations of sexual harassment, and after admitting to harassment, Bora Zivkovic has resigned as blog editor at Scientific American, the magazine said today in a statement.

"Following recent events, Bora Zivkovic has offered his resignation from Scientific American, and Scientific American has decided to accept that resignation," the statement said.

It made reference to a year-old incident in which Zivkovic was accused of and admitted to harassment, but which was not disclosed until this week. "When Monica Byrne contacted Scientific American a year ago, we investigated her report, offered the Company's apologies and Ms. Byrne acknowledged in her blog that she was...

"Amazing...a game-changer...a watershed moment": Grand Theft Auto V? No, Gina Kolata on cancer.
Paul Raeburn
Share

Here are the first three quotes--in total--from a story that appeared this week:

"Amazing."

"A game-changer."

"A watershed moment."

What could they possibly refer to? Grand Theft Auto V? Miley Cyrus's Wrecking Ball video? Ted Cruz's secret meeting at...

Here are the first three quotes--in total--from a story that appeared this week:

"Amazing."

"A game-changer."

"A watershed moment."

What could they possibly refer to? Grand Theft Auto V? Miley Cyrus's Wrecking Ball video? Ted Cruz's secret meeting at Tortilla Coast?

None of the above. They come at the start of three consecutive paragraphs in an Oct. 14 story by Gina Kolata at The New York Times, and they refer to "a new era in cancer treatment." If that isn't exciting enough, she writes that it is "an inflection point...a moment in medical history when everything changed."

The sources Kolata contacted to ask about the new era were apparently so breathless with excitement that all they could manage was one- or two-word...

Bora Zivkovic, who has admitted to sexual harassment and resigned from the board of ScienceOnline, has now taken a break from his duties as blog editor at Scientific American, according to...

Bora Zivkovic, who has admitted to sexual harassment and resigned from the board of ScienceOnline, has now taken a break from his duties as blog editor at Scientific American, according to Philip Yam, Scientific American's online managing editor.

In an email this morning, Yam confirmed the news that was making its way around Twitter--that Zivkovic was taking a break from his duties at his request.

Alice Henchley, a spokesperson for Scientific American, said in an email, "Bora Zivkovic is on personal leave at the moment."

-Paul Raeburn

Login or register to post comments