November 25, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Real message from the LA Times: no change at CIRM will ever be good enough for us

The LA Times has an opinion piece out today by Michael Hiltzik criticizing CIRM.

It’s deja vu all over again.

The LA Times has shown itself to be very biased against CIRM over the years. Hiltzik specifically has been very hostile to the stem cell agency. I see their coverage of CIRM as unbalanced, never focusing on anything positive.

CIRM recently got the ball rolling on significant changes to its structure, particularly as relates to its grant approval process, in response to a review of CIRM by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

In my opinion these newly invoked changes at CIRM largely eliminate any perceived conflicts of interest by having institutional members of the CIRM board not vote on any grant proposals. This change is a big deal. It’s a positive.

I’m a CIRM grantee so, yeah, perhaps I am not entirely impartial, but I’m also a stem cell scientist and patient advocate. I’m hardly what anyone would call a “rubber stamper” of CIRM actions or statements. In fact, at the latest CIRM meeting in Berkeley recently where the IOM was discussed, I got up in front of the Board and made public comments, some of which I am positive were not in line with how most of the Board members were thinking at that time.

I spoke my mind just as I’m writing my mind now. I try to call it like I see it and give a balanced view.

CIRM has done so much good and continues to transform the global stem cell field for the better.

Is it perfect?

No, but it is outstanding overall.

Call me naive, but a gutsy move by the LA Times would have been to applaud these changes at CIRM, even if they had said in their opinion even more change would be good. A headline of an LA Times piece such as “”Positive changes at CIRM; we hope more are on the way” would have knocked my socks off.

But no. In his latest article Hiltzik focuses almost entirely on the negative as he has always done in his past articles. I suspect he and the LA Times will never be satisfied with any change at CIRM. Ever.

To me that makes what the LA Times has to say about CIRM less important and less influential than ever.

Balanced coverage = credibility.

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