NOTE TO READERS: When this project lost substantial funding at the end of 2018, I lost the ability to continue publishing criteria-driven news story reviews and PR news release reviews - once the bread-and-butter of the site going back to 2006. The 3,200 archived reviews, while still educational, are getting old and difficult for me to technically maintain on the back end of the website. So I am announcing that I plan to remove these reviews from the site by April 1, 2021. The blog and the toolkit - two of the most popular features on the site - will remain. If you wish to peruse the reviews before they disappear, please do so by the end of March 2021. After that date you may still be able to access them via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine -

Launching The Site

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Tags is an attempt to help improve the accuracy, balance and completeness of news stories that make claims about new ideas in health care. It is not intended to belittle the hard work of well-intentioned journalists. I covered health and medical news on a daily basis for 15 years and I know about deadline pressures. I know you don’t always have the time and space you need. I know that you don’t call all the shots – that editors or producers or news directors play a significant role in what is finally reported.

Our ratings criteria are clear and fair. And, yes, they’re tough. Journalists may ask, "How can you expect us to cover all of these in each story?" But good health care journalists find a way to fit this information into their stories (see a five-star example on this site). One thing is inarguable: consumers need this information in order to make good health care decisions. We set the bar high. Consumers deserve nothing less.

We also want to thank the Media Doctor websites in Australia and Canada – our inspiration for this site.

A top Canadian health care journalist, Andre Picard of The Globe and Mail of Toronto, has been reviewed by the Media Doctor Canada project. In a recent e-mail to me, Picard wrote: "I actually like having my stories reviewed because we get so little useful feedback." Once he received a weaker two-star grade for a vaccine story. "When I looked back at the two star effort I thought: ‘Yes, there’s some basic info missing.’ When I wrote another vaccine story recently, I was more careful and thorough. Some of my colleagues complain that the criteria are unfair, that they don’t have room to get everything in every story. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for that – and most of my stories are in the 400-800 word range."

We hope that U.S. journalists find our reviews helpful and accept the constructive criticism. This project is intended to support excellence in health and medical journalism. But it’s also intended to help news consumers and health care consumers get the information they need to make decisions.

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