CFIDS Association president and CEO
K. Kimberly McCleary
From the Desk of Kim McCleary
The Media Turns a Corner
Over the past month, I’ve done more media interviews about CFS than I had done in the past six months. And over the past year, I’ve done more media interviews than I had done in the prior 16 years. Combined.
Based on this experience, I can say with confidence that there has been a definite shift in the media’s attitude toward CFS. The shift was evident after the November 3, 2006, press conference at the National Press Club, but it’s more obvious in the most recent interviews, even compared to those I did this spring. It feels like momentum building.
In the past, I could count on the first few questions that followed “Exactly what is CFS?” to be slightly adversarial. Usually, I was asked things like, “How do we know this isn’t just malingering?” or “Isn’t it possible these people are just depressed?” Of course I had answers to those questions, but with limited time on the air or column inches for a newspaper reporter to fill, I was left with little opportunity to get to the more substantive issues.
Now I find that, across the board, the anchors, program hosts and reporters are much better informed to begin with. That’s partly due to the excellent work of our media relations team, Sara Collins and Marcia Harmon, in prepping them for interviews, but it’s also the broader availability of credible information about CFS.
In the six radio interviews I did last week, it was routine for questions to begin with phrases like, “We know that CFS is as disabling as MS and COPD, but tell me how it affects the everyday lives of people who have it.” Another host made the statement, “CFS and depression are two different things, although they have some common symptoms. How can our listeners tell them apart?” That’s a very different tone compared to earlier times. Even when I recently followed the “sports guy” during a morning drive-time radio show in L.A., the host’s questions were serious and thoughtful. In the past that sequence usually meant I’d have to endure some demeaning references before we’d get to the facts about CFS, if we did at all.
Two weeks ago I got a call from a national health reporter after the release of Dr. John Chia’s study linking CFS to enteroviral infection of the stomach tissue in patients with chronic gastrointestinal symptoms. After she asked some questions about that study in particular and how it fits with reports of other viruses that may be associated with CFS (like EBV and HHV-6), she mentioned seeing David Tuller’s July 18 New York Times article about CFS, “Chronic fatigue no longer seen as ‘yuppie flu.’” She told me that others around her office had made a big deal that CFS was now considered “real” in light of that particular article. She asked me, “Aren’t we past that yet—I mean, we’ve had that evidence for a while, haven’t we?” I was thrilled! Such conversion of a major health reporter—and her colleagues—was cause for celebration.
Other reporters have mentioned the New York Times article recently, too. Although some argue that the term “newspaper of record” is outdated in the Internet age, the New York Times remains a strong barometer for the press, and the impact of Tuller’s article is likely to be felt for a long time in the way CFS is covered by other outlets. At least I hope so. Let the momentum build!
President & CEO
The CFIDS Association of America
Kim will be a guest on “Health in 30,” a radio show that airs on WRCR-AM 1300 Radio Rockland in Nanuet, N.Y. on Friday, October 5, from 5:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m. (Eastern time). The program is also available nationwide on line at http://www.healthin30.com/home.cfm; just click on the WRCR link to listen live!