Newspapers reviewed: The Times, The Guardian, The Sun, The Daily Mail
Topic of article: Science and Health
Headline: New cancer drug offers hope of a lasting cure
Author: Oliver Moody (Science Correspondent)
Aim of the article: The article informs readers about the possible meaning of results of a recent study by the Vita Salute San Raffaele University in Milan which looks at using genetically modified T-cells, which are part of the bodies’ natural immune response, as a long-term therapy to target current and recurrent cancer.
Agenda of the article: The writer places a significant amount of emphasis on the significance of this scientific development, using the phrase ‘lasting cure for cancer’ in the opening paragraph and highlighting that this could not only be used as a treatment for cancer but could ‘survive in the blood to head off recurrences.’ They indicate how important it is to have the ‘prospect’ of a treatment that is able to prevent recurrence by using recurrence statistics for both breast cancer and prostate cancer, both of which are commonly known to the general public and saying ‘tens of thousands’ of people relapse annually. The article also functions, to some degree, to explain how this T-cell based therapy works by using the proven example of the immune system fighting a flu virus.
Bias of the article: This is a good example of the rhetoric and media focus on ‘cancer’ as a homogeneous force. There is little distinction between the different cancers or which cancers would be amenable to this treatment, even if it is successful. The only person quoted for the article is the lead researcher on the project, Dr Chiara Bonini, and no context of how realistic this is is provided in the form of other commentators for example those from the NICE or British medical groups. This is particularly important as even if this therapy did go through the many years of rigorous testing on the ‘wide variety of cancer types’ it is said to potentially be successful in, the treatment then has to be licensed for use in the UK and paid for by the NHS. Interestingly the article is sat beside a portrait image of a 27 year old student whose death in an ambulance the paper reports to be partially attributable by failure of earlier intervention in her care.
Topic of article: Health
Headline: Seven-day NHS ‘might not cut deaths’
Authors: Jessica Elgot (News Reporter) and Dennis Campbell (Health Policy Editor)
Aim of the article:The article is informing the readers of the content of and analysis of a leaked ‘internal Department of Health draft report’ titled “Seven Day NHS – update on progress and plans”’ which was from mid-January.
Agenda of the article: The article appears to work to undermine the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s aim to meet the Conservative manifesto pledge of a ‘seven-day NHS’ by 2020. The writers effectively indicate that these plans are not only difficult to enforce but would also be more expensive, impractical and are ill thought-out by illustrating that even ‘his own department’ have doubts about the challenges ahead. This undermining strategy goes further when they highlight that even the evidence (published in a report by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh) for the ‘cornerstone’ argument that the higher weekend death rates could be prevented by a seven-day service were dismissed as ‘rash and misleading’ in the very same 2013 report by the same author. The article also provides the ‘critics’ counter-argument that ‘patients who attend hospital at weekends are more for likely to be sicker or unable to access alternative palliative care services’ than weekday patients.
Bias of the article: This is a predictable response from the newspaper who have continually supported protection of current NHS services and the recent junior doctors as part of their dispute over contracts with the government. This support has included their current ‘This is the NHS’ series and this article goes further by highlighting their support of consultants in their own contract battle by saying that the ‘majority do still work at those times’ referring to weekends and evenings which the government is now requiring that they work. The article is critical and undermining of the plans for a seven day NHS by dissecting Hunt’s key argument that death rates will fall with more consultants working on weekends and using this ‘internal’ report to highlight that these criticisms exist even within those who are planning these changes. There is no time given to points against their line of argument on this cover page and they continue to paint Hunt as somewhat brutal with words such as ‘threatened.’
Topic of article: Dangerous Toys
Headline: Stop Laser Louts
Author: Nick Parker (Senior Reporter)
Aim of the article: The article is informing readers of the risks of ‘powerful lasers’ which recently were the cause of such such a significant beam that a plane had to emergency land at Heathrow.
Agenda of the article: The article argues that these laser beam devices should be classified as ‘offensive weapons’ in order to prevent young ‘louts’ and ‘yobs’ in hoodies from causing ‘sight damage’ to ‘50 child victims in two years’ as well as problems for pilots. The writer uses ‘pilots’ as the trustworthy persons who have called for this classification in order to protect both passengers and children. The article appears to be some form of classical The Sun escapism whereby they offer readers a story that few other papers would put feel qualify to be on their front pages but nevertheless has the potential to shock and anger. It also appears to contribute towards daemonisation of young males who they portray as cruelly damaging both the adventures of holiday-goers and childrens’ eyesight.
Bias of the article: The article provides very little context to this event of the Virgin Airbus’ emergency landing, whether this has happened before or was a one-off incident and what the plural ‘pilots’ actually means. Furthermore they do not evidence how these ’50 children’ sustained injury from the lasers: were they in the plane or is this a completely separate incident? And the writers also do not suggest how realistic classifying a toy as a weapon would actually be or what the precedent is for this action. Perhaps most importantly, the writers do not detail why they believe it to be young ‘louts’ or ‘yobs’ using these lasers in this way or why they are doing this and how criminalising them would be beneficial.
The Daily Mail
Topic of article: Health
Headline: Day 2 of our devastating NHS hotline revelations: Life and death calls answered by teenagers
Authors: Katherine Faulkner (Assistant News Editor) and Josh White (News Reporter)
Aim of the article: The article is reporting information from ‘a whistle-blower’ who informed the newspaper that ‘teenagers’ with ‘no medical training’ were responsible for answering the calls to the NHS non-emergency number 111.
Agenda of the article: The article is working to discredit the NHS non-emergency 111 phone service which provides support for members of the public requiring non-emergency advice or assistance. This is a theme that The Daily Mail is deliberately pursuing over a series of daily ‘revelations’ about the service. The article emphasises that it is not blaming the individual ‘young girls’ but the system of 111 itself with them being unsuitably trained and therefore not being able to have any ‘real way of telling’ what is an emergency and when to advise the caller to ring 999.’ It gives an example of the ‘teenagers’ putting a patient with a stroke on hold to indicate the potential damage of this situation and how poorly the ‘disgraced’ call centre is performing. The article plays on the image of these ‘young girls’ who had just done their GCSEs having lives put into their hands in order to further criticise the inadequacy of the service.
Bias of the article: The articles information is purely based on a ‘whistle-blower’’s account of what was taking place at the centre and takes information from no where else although the theme of disgraced 111 services is not uncommon throughout the media. What exact training was received by those working at the centre is not detailed, or what their specific role is. The article seems to believe the fact that staff are ‘authorised only to take patient’s names and details and offer basic advice on where to find a chemist or other health service’ as too basic, when this could well be the extent of their role before they escalate the situation by passing onto someone more senior and better trained. It is also notable that 111 is non-emergency and 999 is emergency support and therefore ‘life and death’ calls should usually be taken by 999. Points of view of the NHS itself or even the ‘young girls’ or their managers are not included in the article.
Front page images from: http://en.kiosko.net/uk/
Reviewed by: Alice Edwards