Barriers to Accurate Reporting

From the annual meeting of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Honolulu

“Speakers and Attendees: Please check with the Press Office in Sea Pearl 4 before accepting a media interview.”

This message appeared prominently on page 11 of the program for the AACAP meeting, which I just finished covering.

My next hint that reporters at the meeting were in for a difficult time was a warning that was read by session moderators and also appeared in a black-box on page 7 of the program:

“This presentation and the accompanying materials are protected by copyright and may not be reproduced or summarized, in whole or in part, for any commercial purpose without prior written authorization from the copyright holders.”

Now I’m no lawyer, but I do know that no one can copyright an idea, only a particular expression of an idea. Any summary that a reporter writes in his or her own words cannot on its face constitute a copyright violation. In addition, the Fair Use provisions of copyright law permit anyone to quote brief word-for-word excerpts.

So what gives?

I spoke with Rob Grant, AACAP’s new communications manager, to register my objections to this policy. He said these standards were established about 2 years ago after members of an anti-psychiatry organization gained entry to the meeting by posing as reporters. Rob wouldn’t discuss details, and said the AACAP did not intend to prevent attendees from talking to legitimate members of the press. He gave me his mobile phone number and said to please phone him directly or give the number to any attendees who balked at talking to me.

Fortunately, none of the speakers and attendees who I interviewed insisted on talking first to Rob or being lugged up to the Press Office for preapproval.

Yet another proviso, a ban on taking pictures, and the unavailability of PowerPoint slides for the press, certainly got in the way of confirming that the numbers and other details in my articles are accurate.

As an alternative to setting up roadblocks, perhaps the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry could adopt procedures for credentialling reporters. The American Society of Clinical Oncology, for example, requires online registration for reporters and asks them to submit recent examples of their reporting, preferably about cancer topics.

It’s not a foolproof solution, but it would seem preferable to threats and limitations.

—Bob Finn (@bobfinn on Twitter)
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1 Comment

Filed under Psychiatry

One response to “Barriers to Accurate Reporting

  1. Such a restrictive policy does not make any sense, why not just check the credentials of people registering as media, as you point out? And if the AACAP “did not intend to prevent attendees from talking to legitimate members of the press” as the contact told you, then their organization sure made it appear that their intentions were restrictive.

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