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 - https://archive.org/web/.

More than 600 stories reviewed on HealthNewsReview.org

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In case you don’t visit the HealthNewsReview.org site often, I wanted to let you know about a new Publisher’s Note just published there. It reads:

Our database of stories reviewed now numbers more than 600.

113 of the stories were by the Associated Press, which feeds most newsrooms. We’ve reviewed 38 stories by the Los Angeles Times, 37 by the New York Times, 33 by the Wall Street Journal, 21 by the Washington Post, and 19 by USA Today.

Of the television networks’ morning programs and evening newscasts, we’ve reviewed 52 stories by ABC, and 45 each by CBS and NBC.

As you know, our highest rated stories get 5 stars, our lowest-rated get none. After 603 reviews, 12% got 5 stars, 24% got 4 stars, 29% got 3 stars, 27% got two stars, 6% got one star and 3% got zero stars.

But sometimes the star score doesn’t tell the whole story. With a movie review, you wouldn’t only be interested in the star score the reviewer came up with. You’d want to read WHY the reviewer loved or panned the flick. Similarly, you need to read the meat of our reviews – the criterion-by-criterion comments and the summary review – in order to get the full feeling for what we thought about a story.

For example, an ABC Good Morning America piece, “Breakthrough Cancer Study: Change Lifestyle, Change Risk”, recently got a 4-star score. That’s what it got when we applied our ten review criteria. But we didn’t like the story all that much. Our review summary stated, in part:

There are times when our “star” scores are misleading. In this case the star score is deceptively high for how we really feel about the story. That is why these summary comments are important. This piece may have addressed many of our criteria, but was lacking in balance, independent perspectives, details about the actual study results and details about the types of patients who might be candidates for this lifestyle intervention. Viewers may have been given a far too optimistic picture of an early pilot study.

We’ve had other instances in the past where a story “felt” better than the low number of stars it got from a fair application of the ten criteria. So please read the whole review or you’re not seeing the work and the thought that went into our analysis.

Finally, we want to praise a series that we have not reviewed. On Sunday June 29, the New York Times published a story, “Weighing the Costs of a CT Scan’s Look Inside the Heart”. It was a terrific story and one that all of our readers should be sure to read. Then, on Sunday, July 6, the Times published “Costly Cancer Drug Offers Hope, but Also a Dilemma”.

These stories were published under the series title of “The Evidence Gap” which the Times describes as a series that “will explore medical treatments used despite scant proof they work and will consider steps toward medicine based on evidence.”

Please come to our Discussion Forum and offer your thoughts on our reviews, or on any aspect of health and medical news coverage.

Thanks for your continued interest in our project.

Gary Schwitzer
Publisher

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