I found a copy of today’s Toronto Star newspaper on my coffee break, and was thrilled with the front page. All four front page articles in the print edition are about science! ALL OF THEM!
The two smallest ones are the first paragraphs of articles about a meteorite that crashed in a local town and about research in acoustic fingerprinting. The second-largest article (one column above the fold) is about Swine Flu, but it was the huge-with-photo main front page piece that really blew me away. It’s the only time I have ever seen a story about the relevance of good controls that prominently displayed anywhere.
Need for genetic controls – the story
For the past few days, a group of Tamil protesters have been outside the American consulate on University Avenue to demand intervention in Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, just up the street in Sick Kids hospital, a group of researchers has been desperately trying to get enough controls to prove that one of their young patients really has a genetic disorder that is making her blind so that she qualifies for genetic treatment. The girl was at risk of being pulled from the treatment group because the original controls were not taken from her ethnic group, and there was a chance that the mutation she has is common in her country of origin and not actually causing disease.
She’s Tamil, and her doctors had just a few days to find another 20 or so healthy Tamil controls…
You can see where this is going now: the researchers grabbed swab kits and consent forms, joined the protesting masses outside the US consulate, and within hours they had found enough controls.
“”I think it’s a great thing they are doing – it is always great to help with scientists,” said Navaratnarajah after handing over his contribution to the team.”
With the ongoing debates about whether bloggers will replace journalists, I think journalists just made a great case there. No science blogger could ever have been at the right place and time to get this amazing story, and without good journalism it would never have been the main story in a print newspaper.
Front page news
This is the week of the Sick Kids radiothon, and this edition of the paper also had an entire Sick Kids supplement, but usually that just temporarily puts patients or diseases to the foreground. To get a cheerful, serendipitous story about collecting controls to take up two-thirds of the front page, pushing down a current raging infectious disease to a mere column, is still quite something. Kudos to the Toronto Star and staff reporter Emily Mathieu!