Medical Journal Editor Fired Over Sex Study

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Pitch a story to any editor and the first question is likely to be: What's the peg? Not so at the Journal of the American Medical Association. JAMA's longtime editor, Dr. George Lundberg, was fired on Friday for having apparently linked the publication date of an article that surveyed how college students define "having sex" to President Clinton's impeachment trial. The AMA blamed Lundberg for "inappropriately and inexcusably interjecting JAMA into the middle of a debate that has nothing to do with science or medicine." The incident is fascinating, says Time medical columnist Christine Gorman, "because there has been an attempt over the last several years for publications like JAMA to court wider media attention."

JAMA, Gorman points out, had become known for trying to expand the subjects of medical inquiry it has explored in its pages. "For example," she says, "the journal has taken a look at gun violence as a public health issue." A struggle of sorts had emerged between JAMA and medicine's other prestigious publication, the New England Journal of Medicine, for wider publicity. "There was a feeling that the two journals were leapfrogging each other for press attention," says Gorman. "This, however, may have been the last leap." A leap of great general interest nevertheless -- 'cause in case you're wondering, some 60 percent of college students agree with President Clinton and do not think that oral-genital contact constitutes having sex.