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Paper Monitor

12:27 UK time, Thursday, 1 October 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Lots of journalists live in fear of Ben Goldacre. For those who haven't sampled his column in the Guardian or his Bad Science blog, he is a medically-qualified crusader against the twin threats of quackery and poor understanding of science in the media.

According to some sarcastic people, journalism is dominated by people with a predominantly arts and social sciences background, people who are occasionally flummoxed by science, some of whom do not even possess biology GCSE.

Yet these very same people are required to write pieces about science that have an effect out there in the real world. And if they botch them, the spectre of Goldacre hangs over them.

Paper Monitor can't help but wonder whether the Daily Mail also felt this oversight, as it headlined its story on the girl who died after receiving a Cervarix jab to offer immunity against HPV.

The headline says: "Cancer jab is safe, say experts." So, it's a fair reflection of yesterday's story that the girl's death resulted from a serious medical condition - only revealed today to have been a malignant tumour - completely unrelated to her vaccination.

But the Mail is not entirely convinced the jab is necessarily the best option - balancing the main headline with a secondary one: "... as researcher behind the vaccine testing claims Britain's programme is a 'public health experiment'."

In its piece it details the concerns of a leading cervical cancer expert who questions exactly how effective the vaccine is. It also spends two pars with concerns about possible adverse reactions. "Even if the jab is only dangerous for one person in a million, women should be told the risks, she said."

Of course, the Mail has been hammered by Goldacre in the past as the "home of the health scare, and now well known as vigorous campaigners against vaccination" as part of the Bad Science columnist's criticism of how the media mishandled coverage of the MMR.

But, the paper has been nothing if not even handed, giving Goldacre's book a good review last year.

Elsewhere in today's papers, it's the day of the diet.

The Daily Mirror has Jennie McAlpine from Coronation Street on the front. She's dropped from a size 16 to a size 10.

But the Mail trumps that with Stephen Fry. He's apparently dropped from 21 to 15 stone after becoming unsettled by his man boobs.

They have an interesting difference in emphasis between the paper - "Fit and spry, the new Mr Fry" - and website - "Has Stephen Fry gone too far? Actor shows off amazing six stone weight loss".

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