Thursday, July 2, 2015

Breaking news

By Cristin Nelson

Breaking news about a new drug approval from the FDA was released this morning, and I examined it in light of our in-class breaking news exercise yesterday.

This news is prominently featured in the Globe because Vertex is a local company, and because of the news' potential impact on the lives of many people who are generally seen as a sympathetic population.  The approval also sets a precedent, given that the drug is the first of its kind.

The lede got right to the point and summed up the situation well.  The nut graf did a fine job of not only explaining some of the technical aspects, but also of explaining why we should care.

The writer runs a real risk of reader boredom if he clumps too many numbers or complicated biotech regulatory information together.  He solves this problem by introducing a human element right after the nut graf: the mother of a 16-year-old girl with cystic fibrosis.  This serves to break up the information, but is also a good human-interest piece of the story.  It is the only quote in the article, and the story never comes back to these people.

Except for the quote, and for a quick check-in on today's Vertex stock price, it is clear that all of the information came from previous news and press releases.  Very little of the information is attributed, making me think it came from previous Globe reports.  The attributions that are given are vague: "Analysts have estimated"; "Scientists have discovered"; "An FDA staff report."  I imagine that the newsroom is working on more detailed follow-ups.

It was also interesting to read the article while keeping in mind our readings about bias.  The article gave me the distinct impression that the writer thought the approval was a good thing.  Other than the cost of the drug, there are no downsides presented here.  The mother's quote is adamantly enthusiastic.

One word choice also created the impression of bias.  The writer called the approval "long-awaited," making me wonder--long-awaited by whom?  Presumably by the company, but the placement and context does give me the impression of an implication that the public at large has been waiting.

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