Health News Review

Why this matters to patients

As a health care consumer, Dave deBronkart says he scrutinizes the source of the information he receives in news stories, including sniffing out stories that may be largely based on news releases from vested interests.


Why does this Matter?

  • With many news organizations facing tough economic times, financial pressures may lead some newsrooms to become more open to using news releases as a way to publish content while cutting costs.
  • News releases can be valid sources of some information. But journalism is charged with the task of independently vetting claims. So it is unacceptable to rely on a news release as the sole source of information.
  • There are many vested interests in health care trying to influence consumer choices. We expect journalism to use independent verification – not to rely on news releases or company spokesmen.
  • A team from Dartmouth Medical School and the Veterans Affairs Outcomes Group published an analysis in the Annals of Internal Medicine that concluded: “Press releases from academic medical centers often promote research that has uncertain relevance to human health and do not provide key facts or acknowledge important limitations.”

 

Thumbs Up Examples 

Thumbs Down Examples 

 No examples.

Study finds early potential in GSK leukaemia drug

This reads like a news release from a drug company or from a UK cancer charity, and, indeed, entire sections of the story are lifted verbatim from a Cancer Research UK news release.


FDA Approves New Device for Brain Tumor Treatment

A story that relies so heavily on not one, but two, news releases. Was it that urgent that this be published before a live person could actually be interviewed?


An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away

The story relies on a news release (a statement from a researcher) and an abstract of a talk not yet given at a scientific meeting.  That’s an incomplete basis for a widely distributed health news story.


Study finds statins reduce pneumonia death rates

This was a problematic story.  Much of the content and some quotes appear to be taken directly from a news release.


Study: Proton treatment for prostate cancer results in few complications

Journalists reporting on research coming from a nearby medical center need to scrutinize claims and not simply parrot copy from a news release.

 




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