Celebrated British journalist Brian Deer spoke this morning to a room full of journalism students at Ryerson University, about his investigative story published in the Sunday Times of London that exposed one of the most scandalous frauds in the history of medicine.
The room was full of eager journalism students and local reporters. Seats were filled and many latecomers were forced to sit on the floor, for lack of space. Students scribbled rapidly as he spoke, while a camera crew filmed his presentation. Investigative journalists like Deer, who unearth such exposing stories, are after all considered celebrities in the media world.
Deer explained to the students that he simply happened upon the story, in what began as a routine assignment. Little did he know that he would later win the British Press Award; a huge honour, as he said it’s “like the Pulitzer of Journalism.”
Researcher Andrew Wakefield had published a study linking symptoms of the autism syndrome to the MMR vaccine. The work appeared in the Lancet, the world’s third most influential medical journal. Deer exposed Wakefield as a fraud, who had claimed to have been an independent researcher, but in fact had been hired by a lawyer for a planned lawsuit against vaccine makers. He had also been receiving secret payments for starting the vaccine scare, and for keeping it alive. Deer told students that Wakefield’s situation was “the most striking conflict of interest you can imagine.”
Deer showed students a picture of the cheque he had received from Wakefield, who tried but was unsuccessful, in suing him for libel. To be accused in a high court claim for libel is “only an honour in your career,” said Deer.
To read more about Brian Deer and his stories about the MMR scare, visit www.briandeer.com
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