Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Dear Friends:

This is the second letter I received in the past week from the Times about my many concerns related to their coverage of the mutant strain of HIV in New York and some of the researchers involved.

While it's great the paper's editors and reporters read my letters to a science desk editor, I wish the Times would get the stories right and report all the facts and questions about this one case of drug-resistant HIV.

If the Times did that, they wouldn't get criticism from me and their would be no need for the paper's chief of communications to reply to me and defend their coverage and editorial decisions.

We'll just have to wait and see how they report future developments in this continuing story.

Subj: In Response to Your Letter
Date: 2/23/2005 4:17:07 PM Pacific Standard Time

Dear Mr. Petrelis:

To respond to your letter point by point:

1. We quoted Dr. Ho accurately; we did not say or imply that his statement
was correct. On deadline, we are simply not in a position to fact-check
every assertion made by every person we quote. Please bear in mind that
this article was largely devoted to criticism of Dr. Ho and Dr. Frieden,
and brought up many of the points that you yourself have raised.

2. As you acknowledge, we correctly reported Sidney Ho's relationship with
ViroLogic. Whether we might have done so in earlier articles depends on
relevance and on what we knew at the time.

3. Ditto.

4. We sometimes discuss stock performance and sometimes don't. This is
another matter of news judgment. You're entirely free to question our
judgment; we will take into account your criticisms and those of other
readers as we cover these issues in the future.

5. I don't understand your criticism on this point. The article reported
the very concern that you raise.

6. Your criticism of the ViroLogic news release would seem to be a matter
between you and the company.

As for your other letters:

On F.D.A. approval for the ViroLogic test: Is F.D.A. approval required for
the New York City Health Department to use a test? We report on many things
that are used in investigations or studies before they have F.D.A.
approval. The absence of approval in this case may be relevant in future
articles; if it is, we will report it.

On Dr. Ho's ownership of stock in ViroLogic: To repeat, we noted his
membership on the company's scientific advisory board. That seemed to our
editors to be sufficient evidence of his involvement with the company. As
you yourself note, the article in Gay City News makes no suggestion that he
has benefited greatly from owning stock.


Catherine Mathis
VP, Corporate Communications
The New York Times Company
212-556-1981 (office)
917-593-7425 (cell)

No comments: