Thursday, August 31, 2006

Shame on the Boston Herald

This isn't Shaughnessy-related, so if that bothers you, please feel free to ignore this and come back when Dan writes again.

There is rampant speculation all over the Internet right now that Jon Lester may have cancer. Said speculation was triggered by this Tony Massarotti article, published late last night in the Herald.

A lot of people are expressing extreme displeasure with the Herald for putting this out there, and I would like to jump on the bandwagon. The article shows an appalling lack of respect for Jon Lester and his family. Massarotti reveals that Lester has "enlarged lymph nodes" and has information from--you guessed it--unnamed sources, and the Herald publishes the sensational headline, "Lester tested for cancer."

First of all, whoever leaked this information should be fired. If it was a Sox official, I want them gone. If it was a health professional, I want them gone and I want them arrested for a HIPAA violation (yes, you can be jailed for that).

And, that said, the Herald should be ashamed of themselves for such an alarmist headline followed up with almost no backing in the article. There are dozens of causes for enlarged lymph nodes. Cancer is only one possibility. Yet that was the one they focused on? There is no information whatsoever in the article besides the illegal revelation that Lester is being tested for cancer. One sentence: "Such a symptom can be caused by an array of issues, from infections to cancer. " No other information given, so here it is: an infection is FAR more likely than cancer. So much more likely that such a headline is ridiculous. The vast majority of swollen lymph nodes are caused by exactly this. I should know, I had lymphadenitis this summer. Pretty much anything can cause swollen lymph nodes.

Yet in this article, we get "Lester tested for cancer!" followed by one sentence about how it could be an infection and a whole pile of smarmy BS about his prospect status. Utterly irresponsible. And what's worse, every news outlet then picked up on it and it's on top of the ESPN site. So Lester, who is probably scared out of his mind, has to deal with the entire world knowing about this when it may not even be true? Shame on you, Boston Herald. You had nothing to go on besides information from sources who legally should not have given you this information, and you published this. Shame on you. Once a tabloid, always a tabloid, I guess.

If it turns out that Lester, God forbid, DOES have cancer, this won't change my stance one bit. It won't justify this.

Irresponsible headline update: Today's article comes with the headline "Lester in Sox' thoughts: Team confirms diagnosis." Does this not make it sound as if they've confirmed the CANCER diagnosis and everybody's now freaking out for him? Is that not what the implication seems to be here? Yet there's really no new information, except that everyone is scared for him (me, too) and that he's had other symptoms like feeling lousy and losing weight (look, more HIPAA violations!). I feel sick enough about what might be happening, why do they have to make it worse?


The Couch Potato said...

Amen & Amen! I have been sick about this story all day & yet, I don't think any of the talking heads at 'EEI decided to take their pal Mazz to task for his irresponsible reporting.

I work in healthcare & I find it appalling that there are so many leaks about athlete's personal medical information. Being a fan does not somehow endow us with the "need to know" criteria that federal law requires.

Ron Newman said...

Is this worse than the "Big Papi in the hospital" rumor that started out on a blog, found its way into print, and then turned out to be true?

fadedredsoxhat said...

This is why Massarotti is Italian for Shaughnessy. To be fair, someone else wrote the headline based on the contents of the report so that person is innocent to me. I would like to see the Red Sox and Mass. General investigate this because there is no such thing as a "need to know" or a "right to know", its a "privilege to know" and nobody earned it.

Ortiz' heart condition shouldn't have been made public without his consent either.

jenny said...

That was a blog. I think the standards are a little bit different, though obviously it was also probably a HIPAA violation to reveal that information about Ortiz.

And I think the headline writer is just as culpable as Massarotti, especially in light of 9/1's new piece of trash. The headline does not reflect what's in the article; it sensationalizes it. That's just as bad as publishing confidential information.

This is on a different level than the leaks that drove Theo nuts in the offseason. That was just the fallout of intraoffice politics. This is illegal.

Anonymous said...

Maybe there needs to be a Massarotti watch blog as well as this fine site dedicated to the CHB.

I for one am sick of these douchbags....

GGW said...

Your view assumes that Tony M's only info was he included in the article - that Jon L had node swelling. I.e., 90% speculation.

Isn't a more likely scenario that Tony M got something much closer to an off-the-record confirmation of cancer and simply didn't include it in his article, essentially playing it safe?

I.e., everyone at the time of the article was 90+% sure (teammates, etc) based on examinations on West Coast by primary care docs and probably by an oncologist, but without full bloodwork, and then Mass General specialists simply confirmed and diagnosed the precise type?


1. No crazy speculation, just reporting what many others (not just BoSox officials, but teammates too) were being told, and in fact, turning a "very likely" into a "maybe" to be on the safe side.

2. Unlikely HIPAA.