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Worst Magazine Cover of the Year?

Slate thinks so

Time Cancer Cover

A decade ago, when I was on the national desk at Newsweek, a handful of us would spend slow nights competing to see who could come closest to writing the Platonic ideal of a perfect coverline. 

The game only had one real guideline: The headlines had to be vaguely rooted in reality.

That’s a journalistic precept that Time feels free to ignore. Witness the headline emblazoned in all-caps on the cover of the magazine’s April 1 issue: “HOW TO CURE CANCER.” It’s followed by an asterisk that directs you to a subtitle, just to make sure you get the point: “Yes, it’s now possible, thanks to new cancer dream teams that are delivering better results faster.”

Which, of course, is completely, utterly, inarguably false. The roughly 580,000 Americans who will die this year from cancer know the reality all too well. For some context, that’s more people than will die from chronic lower respiratory diseases, strokes, accidents, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes combined.

They go on.

What’s particularly egregious about Time’s cover is that it doesn’t even accurately reflect the contents of the magazine’s 4,000-word story, which highlights a 5-year-old organization “started by entertainment-industry figures unhappy with the progress being made against America’s most deadly disease.” The group’s main innovation, as it were, is to give out tens of millions of dollars to research groups willing to work collaboratively and produce results in three years—an “aggressively short time” in the research world.

This is not an insignificant development: The torrents of information being made available through next-generation genetic sequencing require nimble team efforts that are a rarity in medical research. (It’s also not a new idea: Nine years ago, a 9,900-word piece in Fortune titled “Why We’re Losing The War On Cancer” advocated this same approach.)

But I haven’t found a single cancer researcher who believes this means we’re on the verge of curing cancer. “There’s the potential for a real impact [on developing new cancer treatments] if there’s organizational momentum to pick up scientific strands, political strands, and epidemiological strands and weave them together,” says Siddhartha Mukherjee, a Columbia University hematologist and oncologist and the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. “But to what extent were organizational barriers keeping us from having more successful solutions against various cancers? This is not just an organizational problem.”

Instead of jump-starting a conversation about the most effective approach to cancer research, Time distorted it beyond recognition. It’s certainly not the first time that’s happened. It’s been more than four decades since President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act of 1971, promising cancer sufferers that their “hopes will not be disappointed.” In 1998, mortality rates for all types of cancer had actually increased slightly, from 200.73 to 200.82 deaths per 100,000 people. That didn’t stop the New York Times from running Gina Kolata’s embarrassing front-page “special report,” which quoted James Watson as saying a researcher at Children’s Hospital in Boston would “cure cancer in two years.” Watson claimed he said no such thing—“When I read her article, I was horrified,” he told a reporter at the time. Regardless, the prediction, the underpinning of Kolata’s piece, was obviously incorrect.

She looked down and cried

Mark Cherrington writes this about a teen girl he was assigned as a court worker

As a youth court worker, it has never been the high profile cases, pews filled with press and families, but more often the silence that have impacted me dearly.

Last Thursday, Parminder Johal, a lawyer with the Youth Criminal Defence Office asked me to see an eighteen year old girl in custody for breaching her probation. The girl had a minor record and was being held in custody for a warrant going back years. Her crime: Not completing an apology letter and forty hours of community service hours. A Summary Offence, she should not have been held in jail under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. I entered the interview room: a small cubicle with metal tables, a phone and wall of Plexiglas. When she entered; a petite Aboriginal girl, I could see her face was swollen, yellow and black, looking like old fruit. She threw a nervous smile and was missing a tooth. I introduced myself, “I’m here to help you and provide…”

“I’ve been raped,” she interrupted. Her lips quivered, eyes welled up, and finally she just looked down and cried.

I waited a few minutes. “Perhaps,” I finally said, “somebody else…”

She shook her head and wiped her cheeks with her sleeve. “But you said you’re here to help me? Somebody has to listen? Don’t they?”

A lot of people should have been listening!

She told me she had been at a motel room with some friends. There were drinks, “But I didn’t drink much! I think my drink was spiked,” she added and waking up, bruised, bleeding from her vagina, called her mother frantic, who called the Edmonton City Police Service . As first responders, her expectations as a victim of sexual assault were different than what transpired. The Officer/s ran her name, found she had an old warrant and arrested her.

According to the girl, the only acknowledgement by the police about being raped, was once released she could attend any police station and fill out a statement.

It gets worse you read the entire post.

Contextless Thoughts

  • Oliver is still in the NICU at RUH. He is doing fine but is still too small to take home. The nurses are trying to fix him up with the little girl in the crib next door but there isn’t a lot of chemistry there.
  • Mark is irritated by the rule that he can’t see Oliver whenever he wants. There was a poster up for the RUH Foundation and he muttered, “I won’t be giving any money to them!”
  • Lee is moving out soon (It was a couple of years ago he was going to move in for a couple of months). He has a nice renovated apartment in Lakeview which he doesn’t know if he is going to keep because he wants to be closer to work. Either way it looks like there is a move in my future. Mark is torn as he hates the idea of his uncle moving out but he really wants Lee’s large bedroom in the basement. He has floated the idea of moving out with Lee but that hasn’t gotten much traction.
  • A friend of mine drives a Ford Explorer but spent less then $400 on gas last year. He walks the ten blocks to work every day even when it is -40 degrees out. He only drives when he has to be somewhere after work that he can’t walk to. Considering that the average American spends almost $4000.00 a year in gas, that’s a considerable saving.