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Staying on Top of the Spin


Staying on Top of the Spin

Here’s a sampling of company self-descriptions that turned up on PR Newswire on a typical news day in May:

•“A global leader in functional genomics”

•“One of the only manufacturers in the world concentrated exclusively on laboratory automation and robotic solutions for the rapidly expanding life sciences marketplace”

•“One of the world’s leading providers of technologies and products for the separation, purification and handling of nucleic acids”

•“A leading, worldwide supplier of automated solutions for genomic and proteomic research”

•“A leading developer and provider of innovative life science tools based on mass spectrometry”

A lot of worldwide leaders for such a young industry, no? OK, it’s PR. Exaggeration, embellishment, and double-speak are the norm. We all read it through a filter.

But as a poignant article in Business 2.0 pointed out last month, one of the sorrier consequences of the online information age is the blurring line between this stuff and legitimate journalism. It’s not uncommon for content-hungry websites to offer visitors automated newsfeeds. What is presented to you as breaking news is actually downloaded straight from the PR wires.

The phenomenon is not limited to online media, either. Calls that we at GT field from some public relations folks make it apparent that it is de rigueur for industry magazines to publish press releases and so-called “company bylined” articles. A marketing assistant from one genomics company inquired in a voicemail message to us just today about our “parameters for articles submitted by companies.”

Short answer is: There are none. We feel a little silly even pointing it out, but just this once for the record, we will. Not in Genome Technology, not in our online news service, and not in our newsletters, BioInform and BioArray News, will you find articles authored by the companies we cover. With the exception of IT Guy, by our technical expert Nat Goodman, or opinion columns such as TrendSpotter (online) and Opposite Strand (in the magazine), all the news and features you see in our publications are written by journalists, not industry reps. We don’t publish press releases, and we don’t print unedited new-product announcements. Never have, never will.

Our belief is that discriminating readers (and the advertisers who seek to reach you) appreciate our approach: credible, fair reporting that delivers the inside scoop and not the company line. Likewise, we appreciate when you call us on it, like Leonard Lipovich from Mary-Claire King’s lab does in a letter to the editor this month, when we fail to be skeptical enough and let fluff slip through the cracks.

Spinning Genomeweb

GT is growing. This month we introduce two new features.

Active Site, a column penned by freelance journalist and lab-design critic Brad Stenger (p. 30), will look at a new post-genomic workspace each month. Stenger says the column will focus on “the industry''s latest and greatest collaborative workspaces ¯ asking how and why the design of space boosts productivity and marries disciplines.”

And our new GenomeWeb page (p. 14) will highlight the best of our website and newsletters each month with keywords so you can find the full stories online.

Speaking of newsletters, we’ve got a new one of those for you, too. Coinciding with the four-year anniversary of BioInform, our weekly global bioinformatics news service, this month we debut BioArray News. GenomeWeb senior reporter Marian Moser Jones is at the helm of this one, which will cover the nitty-gritty of the biochip/microarray market. To find out more, check out

Adrienne J. Burke, Editor in Chief

The Scan

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In dozens of domestic dogs listening to wolf vocalizations, researchers in Communication Biology see responses varying with age, sex, reproductive status, and a breed's evolutionary distance from wolves.

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With data for more than 1,900 individuals affected by a range of genetic conditions, researchers compared facial phenotype-based diagnoses informed by 2D or 3D images in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

Survey Suggests Multigene Cancer Panel VUS Reporting May Vary Across Genetic Counselors

Investigators surveyed dozens of genetic counselors working in clinical or laboratory settings, uncovering attitudes around VUS reporting after multigene cancer panel testing in the Journal of Genetic Counseling.

Study Points to Tuberculosis Protection by Gaucher Disease Mutation

A mutation linked to Gaucher disease in the Ashkenazi Jewish population appears to boost Mycobacterium tuberculosis resistance in a zebrafish model of the lysosomal storage condition, a new PNAS study finds.