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/.

Check news organizations’ average grades in our reviews

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One of the new features we’ve added in our redesign/relaunch is a chart of different news organizations’ performance.

It’s not perfect but it’s the first time that anyone can go on the site and do some comparisons.

We currently regularly check the following news sources:

Top Ten Newspapers by Daily Circulation

  • USA Today
  • Wall Street Journal (health blog only since online is subscription only)
  • New York Times (We excluded the New York Post and the New York Daily News because that would mean that three of the top 10 newspapers being reviewed were from New York. We wanted broader geographic diversity in what we reviewed.)
  • Los Angeles Times
  • Washington Post
  • Chicago Tribune
  • Houston Chronicle
  • Arizona Republic
  • Denver Post
  • Dallas Morning News

Also checked daily:

  • National Public Radio health & science page
  • MSNBC.com health news section
  • CNN.com health news section
  • WebMD health news section

Wire services checked daily:

  • Associated Press health news
  • Reuters Health
  • HealthDay

Checked weekly: websites of news magazines

  • Time
  • Newsweek
  • U.S. News & World Report

A couple of caveats before anyone over-interprets these pie charts:

  • We only review stories that include claims of efficacy or safety in treatments, tests, products or procedures.  So this is not the universe of health care stories reported by any news organization. Eligible stories may be about:
    • Investigational drugs or devices
    • Vitamins or nutritional supplements
    • Diagnostic and screening tests
    • Dietary recommendations
    • Surgical procedures

     

  • We don’t catch everything that any news organization reports.
  • We only review what we can find on a news organization’s website.  Some news organizations (e.g., the Arizona Republic and the Dallas Morning News) don’t make it easy to find their health care news on their websites so we are not able to review very much by them.
  • So this is a snapshot – not a complete profile.

How a story is graded on our ten criteria is converted into a star score of 0 to 5 stars.  The overall average, after 1,650 stories reviewed, is 3.03 stars out of 5.

E-patient Dave DeBronkart wrote a piece about our new site on the e-patients.net website and did his own comparison of news organization grades that he looked up.  He wrote:

“Among the best ratings:

  • LA Times (130 stories) got 4 or 5 stars 55% of the time, and 0-2 stars only 20%
  • Associated Press (238 stories): 57%; 0-2, 18%.
  • NY Times (114 stories): 4-5 52%, and 0-2 stars 21%
  • NPR (39 stories): 4-5 stars 57%, and 0-2 21%
  • USA Today (50): 4-5 52%; 0-2, 24%
  • Washington Post (41): 4-5 51%. That’s good, but a surprising 36% earned 0-2 stars.

Among the lesser stellar:

  • Newsweek (10 stories): two had 5 stars, four had 3, four had just 2
  • Time (21): 4-5 stars 39%; 0-2 stars 34%.
  • CNN (33): 4-5 stars 36%, 0-2 34%.
  • US News (33): 4-5 19%; 0-2, 26%.

Most amazing to me is that WebMD, which is often recommended as reliable, earned 4-5 stars just 39% of the time, and was more likely (43%) to earn just 0-2 stars.

See why a health information seeker needs to know this? Someday perhaps your doctor’s office will have an “information coach,” but even then, Health News Review will still be more accessible. Besides, even the best of these outlets had 0-2 stars 18% of the time. You really do need to evaluate each story separately.”

 

 

 

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