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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Where's an investigative journalist when you want one?

I spent my life in the media. Today, I'm retired. And today, I am filled with guilt. There were a number of stories on which I worked that I now know were wrong. Some, I doubted were true at the time. But there was one I knew was wrong right from the start and yet I still helped spread the lies.

Why the guilt? Because of the scale of the financial pain caused by the oh-so-very-wrong media-spread story. Tens of thousands of people were affected, some reportedly lost their homes and the overall financial losses totaled in the millions.

The story: The urea formaldehyde foam insulation, or UFFI, story. Please, don't stop reading because you know all about the horrors of UFFI. You read all about it in your local paper or saw the story reported by television news. Possibly a well-known investigative journalist was behind the local exposé. Maybe you caught the story on 60 Minutes or Marketplace.

But, I won't ask you to simply take my word. Please read what Michael T Newhouse, MD, MSc, FRCP(C), FACP, FCCP, Clinical Professor of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences - McMaster University, Hamilton, ON Canada - Chief Medical Officer and Dr Jeff Norman of the Dept of Epidemiology of the McMaster Health Sciences Faculty have said after spending almost a decade investigating UFFI complaints.

They revealed the UFFI story "for the nonsense it was" and they revealed "the pseudo-science surrounding the hypothesized adverse health effects of urea-formaldehyde foam insulation and of formaldehyde in plywood and broadloom carpeting." Note quotation marks.

I ask: Where's Randy Richmond, the investigative reporter at The London Free Press? Why does Marketplace, the CBC Canadian consumer affairs program, still brag about the part Marketplace played in the entire fiasco? And why are newspapers still referencing the completely discredited story as if it were true?

It is time to raise the bar for journalists and to open journalism to criticism.

If you are a journalist and want to know more, here are some links. Forgive the writing. I need an editor but that's another story.

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