The release of a short video by Josh Fox, The Sky is Pink, has people talking about our story from last summer, which explained local concerns about rising breast cancer rates.
I have watched my editors give permission for people to reproduce our stories many times. They usually ask that any story be reproduced in its entirety, with proper credit given. It can be a huge trap for journalists covering developing stories – how to summarize work that has come before accurately and succinctly, and be able to fit that history into a fast-moving story. So, of course, readers also struggle to sum up a news story that’s important to them in a talking point or tweet.
But since the story became a tweet and talking point over the weekend, here is the original tip for any readers who might be getting confused about what they read a year ago. The original tip did not come from a press release, it came from this report. You can scroll down to the bottom to see it for yourself, or read the meat below:
The Texas Cancer Registry is a statewide, population-based registry that collects data to measure the state’s cancer burden, as well as its progress in preventing, diagnosing, and treating cancer among residents. In 2009, data from the registry showed that six counties in the western Dallas-Fort Worth area had the highest incidence of invasive breast cancer in the state. These counties are Tarrant (which includes the city of Fort Worth), Denton, Wise, Parker, Hood, and Johnson. These 6 counties cover about 5,000 square miles and have a combined population of nearly 3 million people. Registry data also indicated that access to mammography screening in these counties was limited and that screening rates for breast cancer were low.
If you did read the full report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, then you may have noticed that the information was provided as part of program description for more breast cancer screenings. That’s a good thing, especially if rates have been on the rise here. But, as we often say in this business, they buried the lead.
We knew we had value to add to that story. We had just written about breast cancer concerns of women in Flower Mound, as part of our Citizens of the Shale series (which just won a Kevin Carmody Award from the Society of Environmental Journalists). We knew, simply by looking at the list of counties in the report, that they had named the core counties of the Barnett Shale. With years of experience reporting on the shale, we knew where other data sets existed that described its development and could provide additional perspective to the story.
The rest of the work was basic journalism: gather up the numbers behind the tip and ask the question — is more study needed?