Monday, October 24, 2016

ICYMI: New Haven publisher's response to Huffington Post column by Dr. David Katz criticizing Yale Daily News reports about him


Last month veteran publisher Mitchell Young (New Haven Magazine, Business New Haven, etc.) posted a critical rebuttal to a Huffington Post column by physician/author/columnist David L. Katz MD MPH.

Young's comment was hard to get to, so I obtained Young's permission to publish it here.

It started with these three Yale Daily News articles.

Yale Daily News reporter David Yaffe-Bellany (source)

In February 2014, David Katz MPH ’93, the director of the Yale School of Medicine’s Prevention Research Center, wrote two glowing online reviews of a science-fiction novel called reVision.

In his biweekly column in The Huffington Post, Katz lauded the book’s “lyrically beautiful writing,” comparing it to the work of a veritable “who’s who” of great writers, including Plato, John Milton and Charles Dickens. “I finished with a sense of illumination from a great source,” he concluded.

...But Katz omitted a crucial detail from both reviews: the subject of his praise was his own self-published passion project, released two months earlier under the pseudonym Samhu Iyyam.
Via Instructor criticized for comments by Paddy Gavin, April 21, 2016:
David Katz MPH ’93, founder of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and a voluntary clinical instructor at the Yale School of Medicine, is facing criticism this week from doctors and health care professionals around the world for his quoted comments about investigative journalist Nina Teicholz in a recent article published in the Guardian.
Via Yale doctor’s column raises questions — again by David Yaffe-Bellany, September 12, 2016:
David Katz SPH ’93 — the Yale-affiliated doctor whose over-the-top Huffington Post review of his own self-published novel caused a furor in the nutrition community last year — has once again tested the boundaries of ethical journalism.

In another column for The Huffington Post over the summer, Katz lambasted the Massachusetts-based supermarket chain Big Y, calling its ad campaign for the In-Vince-Ible Pizza, a fatty snack named after NFL star Vince Wilfork, “deeply disturbing.” He described the pizza as symptomatic of the obesity epidemic in America, and questioned the parenting skills of Wilfork, who appears alongside his son in ads for the product.

...But nowhere in the May article, which also appeared in the New Haven Register, did Katz mention another crucial detail: Big Y is not just any supermarket. Just one month before the column was published, Big Y cut ties with a nutritional ratings service, NuVal, that Katz established in 2008 and has passionately championed ever since.

David L. Katz MD MPH (source)

To my knowledge, Dr. Katz did not write any letters to the editor or request published corrections for factual errors or ask for space to write rebuttals to any of the articles.

Instead, he responded via his September 15 Huffington Post column, Butter, Beef, And The Yale Daily News:
I keep turning up in the Yale Daily News lately...Alas, the coverage is all negative.

They reported that I wrote a blog in the 3rd person about my self-published fantasy/adventure novel (which, by the way, my Mother and I think is very good) when the publisher suggested it. In a bizarre story in The Guardian allegedly about the history of sugar, which the writer got substantially wrong, I was horribly misquoted on a topic that was never on the record in the first place. The Yale Daily News never even asked me if I said what I allegedly said (I did not), but they did repeat it, and built a story around that, too. Most recently, I challenged the propriety of a local grocer’s ads for maximizing meat intake, and linking it to ‘invincible’ health against all evidence. That third item was in the Yale Daily News this week.

...(The YDN’s) negative interest in me began exactly when I took a prominent, public position in support of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report; when I campaigned for the inclusion of sustainability in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans; and when I confronted the cabal working to undermine these very things, and peddle more meat.

That’s the common element in this otherwise random coverage: meat.

...That the agents of meat should come after me should surprise no one. When Oprah Winfrey highlighted some of the abuses involved in the mass production of beef in the U.S., they went after her. If Oprah’s platform does not dissuade attack, mine certainly will not.

...The agents of meat, apparently, sift social media daily looking for dirt on me, and have done so for the past two years at least. They don’t find much, because there isn’t much- but they make the most of what they find. And when they can’t make a story of the latest fleck themselves, they peddle it to the Yale Daily News, which is apparently always ready to buy it, few if any questions asked.
If you click this button at the end of his column...

And then click...'ll find Mitchell Young's September 28 comment. (Like I said, it's hard to get to.)

For clarity, I did some minor copy editing which Young approved.

Dr. Katz:

I sympathize with the feelings of unfair treatment in the local media. And I can understand that you believe many of your positive efforts should be well covered by media, especially the Yale Daily News (YDN). The nature of news coverage is that the "Man Bites Dog" story wins out and that's just the way it is.

I have, as you might remember, interviewed you for and in fact reported on your NuVal system. I personally vouched for the system and how it gave me insight into food quality. Further, our publications presented you with what for us is an important recognition of Health Care Hero, one of several that year from a world class community of researchers, providers, care givers. We hosted an event for our Health Care Heroes and presented you with an award directly.

Therefore, I think it is safe to say that our coverage was very positive and I certainly hold the view that your efforts to promote good nutrition and healthful practices have been very laudatory. But as you might imagine a "but" is coming, two in fact.

First, let me say one of your detractors did reach out to us about the negative stories that the YDN reported on. And while we chose not to cover them at the time, I will tell you that they did create problems in my view.

First of all, whether a novel or whether your mom likes a book or not is irrelevant and does not properly address what is (to media people anyway) an important issue. When a "truthteller" which we accept you as and which you present yourself as disguises himself to self promote - how can I say it best? - this is very bad. Frankly, if as repeated and reported is true, a sincere apology is required and not a personal anecdote.

Troubling to me, however, is the Big Y ad commentary. The Big Y Supermarket is the one I shop in and the supermarket that I wrote about when discussing and applauding your nutrition monitoring systems, NuVal.

What does disturb me, however, to the best of my understanding and in this column, is that you did not disclose that you have had through NuVal, a significant business relationship with Big Y in your article attacking their ad in regards to nutrition and health information.

Frankly there is much to attack in supermarket practices including Big Y - and while I applauded the NuVal system and wondered why Big Y chose to use it - it didn't stop them from heavily marketing much unhealthy foods, even more than the healthy ones.

When I was contacted about your alleged "transgressions" I did some checking and learned that at least my Big Y supermarket quietly dropped the NuVal labeling and their own staff wouldn't comment on it and some didn't even know that the labels were removed or covered.

Frankly, I had intended to follow up with you and the corporate offices because frankly that is A BIG STORY and I just didn't get around to it yet .

If Big Y did scale back or drop NuVal, that further underscores your obligation to inform readers of this and your relationship with Big Y when you criticised their promotion of meat.

For the record I do not eat meat, for the health reasons that you and others regularly discuss.

Today we have columnists, advocates, experts and a few journalists still. All are writing and reporting on topics, news and opinions. While columnists and experts might not believe they have a duty to disclose their relationships, one should expect that the public and other media will hold them to the journalistic standard in this case.

If you choose the path of "truthteller," then if you compromise it, YDN or anyone will feel an obligation to explore that – whether we've been fair or kind in coverage in the past or not.

I think that's what happened, and I don't think it is appropriate to make the YDN the target here.