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Whoops! Washington Post Offers Accidental Glimpse of Its Health Editing

Whoops! Washington Post Offers Accidental Glimpse of Its Health Editing

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

Someone at the Washington Post is having a very bad day today. As Gawker reports, a health story went live on the newspaper's website with all of the editor's comments in it. The story was quickly pulled down, but Gawker helpfully pasted the entire story on its site beforehand.

Embarrassing? Sure. But Gawker's actually doing a public service for health journalism, because the story showcases the sausage-making that ideally leads to a more accurate and more understandable story. The editor and writer have nothing to be ashamed of: the story begins with a compelling anecdote - a young woman forgoes Pap smears while she is uninsured, only to be diagnosed with cervical cancer at age 25. And it's a strong edit, except in one section where the editor, and perhaps the writer, seems to confuse the HPV test with the Pap smear.

Here's an example:   

THIS GRAF SENTENCE NEEDS TO BE TWEAKED. Each year, about 12,000 U.S. women get cervical cancer and (ANOTHER? OR IS THIS PART OF THE 12,000) 4,000 die. YET DOCTORS VIEW CERVICAL CANCER AS A disease THAT WITH PROPER SCREENING can easily be prevented and treated. Pre-cancerous lesions and early cancer are easily detected through screening. Lesions can be removed in a minimally-invasive procedure before they turn into cancer. And there's a vaccine against the sexually transmitted virus that causes most cervical cancer cases.

HOW ABOUT: BUT FELDER'S CASE IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF WHY THIS MOSTLY CURABLE DISEASE IS STILL A THREAT/IS STILL KILING PEOPLE, DOCTORS SAY. TOO OFTEN WOMEN WHO DON'T HAVE HEALTH CARE COVERAGE OR THOSE WHO,HAVE not HEARD ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF REGULAR SCREENINGS-DESPITE YEARS OF PUBLIC CAMPAIGNS-DISCOVER THE PROBLEM WHEN THE DISEASE HAS ALREADY PROGRESSED TOO FAR .

So go read the entire story at the Gawker post, and let me know what you think of the edit in the comments below. How would you have written - or edited - this story differently?

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