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Parents of Autistic Boy Rail on Trib for "Editorial Bias"

By Prescott Carlson in News on Jan 25, 2010 10:00PM

2010_01_25autism.jpg Sym and Wade Rankin, parents of a 10-year-old boy with autism, want to let everyone know they've canceled their subscription to the Chicago Tribune and are encouraging others to do the same. The reason? The Rankins were piqued by a series of articles written by Tribune investigate reporters Trine Tsouderos and Patricia Callahan about alternative methods of treating autism, especially ones that give off a distinct aroma of snake oil.

In a lengthy screed sent to Trib president/publisher Tony Hunter and chairman Sam Zell, the Rankins say they have lost the "high degree of respect [they] once held" for the newspaper due to a perceived "editorial bias" in their reporting on the subject. They accuse Tsouderos of "[straying] from the principles of balance, fairness, and the truth" in her articles, and even hinted that the Trib's deciding to focus on the subject at all was misguided, saying:

The articles by Ms. Tsouderos were given front-page treatment, including the latest, which came at a time when every other organ of the press was focused squarely on the recent tragedy in Haiti.

Tsouderos seems to have first become interested in the subject of autism treatment after writing a lengthy piece last May about Lupron, a drug that some claim is a "miracle drug" for those with autism, but experts say its treatment is "not grounded in scientific evidence." She went on to write (or co-write with Callahan) many more articles about autism "cures" calling many therapies "uncontrolled experimentation" and that science has been "hijacked" to promote alternative treatments. The article that broke the Rankins' camel's back, though, was a story published last week looking into the off-label use of supplement OSR#1 that the manufacturer is less-than-subtly promoting on their website to parents of children with autism as a treatment.

While Tsouderos found zero medical journals discussing OSR#1, she did find that the substance has an industrial use that has "been explored in publications such as the Journal of Hazardous Materials." OSR#1 also has not been subjected to formal clinical trials, nor is it approved by the FDA.