Views And Reviews

A war of words

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.308.6922.210a (Published 15 January 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:210
  1. J Durant

    The relationship between medical science and the mass media is always delicate, and occasionally difficult, but only very rarely does it degenerate into a war of words. At present, however, a war of words is precisely what is being waged between John Maddox, the editor of Nature, and Andrew Neil, the editor of the Sunday Times, over the Sunday Times's coverage of AIDS. Rumblings of discontent within the scientific community were brought to a head by Maddox in the 9 December issue of Nature. In an editorial entitled New-style abuse of press freedom Maddox accused the most profitable newspaper in Britain of so consistently misrepresenting the role of HIV in the causation of AIDS that Nature plans to monitor its future treatment of this issue, if only to save readers the trouble of buying it (Nature 1993;366:493).

    The response of the Sunday Times was swift and strong. On 12 December the newspaper published two full pages - including a reprint of the entire Nature editorial - under the blood red headline: AIDS: why we won't be silenced. According to science correspondent Neville Hodgkinson, his newspaper had been subjected to a wave of extraordinary attacks in recent weeks over its attempts to widen discussion of one of the most crucial medical and scientific issues of our time: the cause of AIDS. Hodgkinson went on to rehearse a series of doubts about the generally accepted view of the relationship between HIV and AIDS within what he termed the science establishment and …

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