From The Editor | January 22, 2018

No Prescription For Fake News

Louis Garguilo

By Louis Garguilo, , Chief Editor, Outsourced Pharma Follow Me On Twitter @Louis_Garguilo

No Prescription For Fake News

We could never get away with “fake news” here.

That’s because of you, the readers. You’d run us out of town in a New York minute. You’re too informed, intelligent – scientific – to take seriously anything that’s off kilter (wittingly or otherwise).

As editor, I can offer a viewpoint, present those of others through interviews, maybe put a new twist on subjects like tech transfer and API supply agreements, or even attempt a novel synthesis of industry topics. But these are then cast into your court of opinion, to accept or reject, or perhaps withhold judgment. All of us who write at Outsourced Pharma know our judges are firm; we must present our case as honestly and intelligently as possible.  

A part of our efforts to add to our industry’s knowledge bank – and the second reason we can’t fathom fake news – is our systematic reliance on trusted industry sources. We provide names, titles, affiliations, backgrounds, and professional experiences. We interview and quote biopharma industry executives, managers, and frontline professionals, to get their story, suggest best practices, list challenges, and hopefully provide you solutions.

Then there’s a third point: The drug development and manufacturing outsourcing industry is wide-ranging, but at the same time remains elemental. No matter the project, you have to identify your specific needs; select appropriate partners; negotiate contracts – fee-for-service, FTEs, supply and quality agreements; transfer technology, knowhow, and data (back and forth); project manage; oversee your external supply chain. No one can credibly offer up feints or subterfuges regarding the practice of these activities.

Authentically Open

But new ideas are routinely offered up here, because in fact ours is a creative industry. Innovation is perpetually on the tongue; new technology and science in the mind. There’s no censuring of new ideas. The only demand of your openness is authenticity.

Perhaps we’ve experienced this particularly at our Outsourced Pharma conferences. You’ve made a name for us as the venue for real discussion, and open dialogue among drug sponsors, and between those sponsors and their CDMOs.

Actually, we are entering our 2018 conference season, running from May through October, and which will send us to Boston and Philadelphia (try to be unreal there!), and our West Coast cities of San Diego and San Francisco.

Frankly, it hadn’t occurred to me until working on these new agendas that (as conference chair) I’ve been using the language of “anti-fake news” to promote our franchise since well before we became awash in suspect content surrounding so much of our lives. While tacky to quote oneself, I’ve been habitually describing our conference as full of “authentic dialogue and discussion”; “an opportunity to practice thought leadership through real debate”; and “discussions that are positively provocative, but always professional.” (And apparently fully alliterated.)

Fake News Through The Years

Allow me to wrap up this homily on a note of personal experience with my profession of journalism. But before I do, a paragraph of background.

Just before my time – circa the mid-1890s – tilting “news stories” to one’s (or a benefactor’s) advantage was called “yellow journalism.” It was coined for the sensationalism often printed in yellow ink in the “circulation war” between Joseph Pulitzer's New York World and William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal. The term itself is said to have been coined around that same time by Erwin Wardman, the editor of the New York Press.

Now fast forward to 1977, and join me as a freshman on a New York university campus to embark on my instruction in journalism. I walk into my first classroom. It’s neatly arrayed with typewriters on modest desks. The typewriters look like so many soldiers reporting for the solemn duty of reporting the facts, accurately and truthfully. And that’s what we learned – the accurate aggregation of facts:

According to local fire officials on the scene, at approximately 9:40am a fire broke out on the bottom floor of a two-story, single-structure building, located at 90 West Main Street, reportedly owned by Mr. and Mrs. John Jones, who were not home at the time.  

But it wasn’t that simple even then, of course. There was a palpable buzz surrounding the practice and importance of journalism, emanating from the recent Watergate break in, which led to the resignation of the president of the United States. It was an ascendance of journalism, but replete with debates on secret sources (some named conspiratorially as “Deep Throat”).

And heated debate about Truman Capote’s 1966 “nonfiction novel,” titled “In Cold Blood,” still hadn’t reached full crescendo. Capote claimed it was “New Journalism.” In essence, he paid heed to the facts surrounding the murder of a family, but placed them in a narrative and novel form. His mix of fact, and fiction based on fact, was now spilling into similar manipulations in newspaper and magazine news articles. Was this a direct precedent of today’s blurring lines of fact and fiction? Maybe. But I remember I didn’t like it. I felt like I was being manipulated throughout the narrative.

Today, at Outsourced Pharma, we certainly use the narrative form to get out information. And we present a whole lot of analysis and opinion, as well as just-the-facts news. What’s important is you know which is which, and neither is ever manipulative. (Again, it wouldn’t work if we tried.) Even better, many of you also contribute to these pages, as authors, interviewees for editorials, and as panelists and attendees at our conferences. As a community, we collectively set and adhere to our standards of honest presentation.

And in case you were wondering, one of the first specific references of “fake news” was in 1891, in The Buffalo Commercial (what is it about New York?):

“The public taste is not really vitiated and it does not in its desire for ‘news’ absolutely crave for distortions of facts and enlargements of incidents; and it certainly has no genuine appetite for ‘fake news’ ...”

And there’s still no appetite. Thanks to you.