Salty Sourcing from the Chron

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According to journalism.org, the first principal of journalism is an obligation to the truth.

“Even in a world of expanding voices, accuracy is the foundation upon which everything else is built--context, interpretation, comment, criticism, analysis and debate. The truth, over time, emerges from this forum. As citizens encounter an ever greater flow of data, they have more need--not less--for identifiable sources dedicated to verifying that information and putting it in context.”

It’s the last part of that statement – “identifiable sources” and “putting it in context” – that came to mind as I read the lead story in today’s Chronicle about the hazards of salt.

Here is reporter Todd Ackerman putting salt into context:

“Suspicions about salt are not new. In 2,500 B.C., physicians in China warned patients that if they used too much, their ‘pulse’ would harden. Today, doctors say…”

For grins, I punched “salt 2500 bc china” into Google. A bunch of stuff came up, including the reporter’s source. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1997 ran a story in its FDA Consumer magazine that reads as follows:

“Scientists’ suspicions about salt are not new. As Jeffrey Cutler, M.D., director of the Clinical Applications and Prevention Program, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, points out, physicians in China back in 2,500 B.C. warned patients that if they used too much salt in their food, their ‘pulse’ would harden.”

The language in the FDA report – which is not cited in the Chronicle story – is almost identical to Ackerman’s. I’m no expert, but I don’t think that’s plagiarism. Just lazy journalism. – Todd Spivak

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