A long time ago – July of 2005 – I was one of 8 authors of a series of papers published in PLoS Medicine under the umbrella topic, “What Are the Roles and Responsibilities of the Media in Disseminating Health Information?”
I wrote about “The Agenda Setting Role of Health Journalists.” I always liked the cover art by Scott Mickelson for the print edition of the journal – bringing to life my line about the risk of journalists becoming “unwitting mouthpieces for incomplete, biased, and imbalanced news and information.” Excerpt:
“It is not the role of journalists to become advocates for causes. However, I believe that journalists have a responsibility to investigate and report on citizens’ needs as they struggle to understand and navigate the health-care system. People need help in understanding the ways in which scientists and policymakers reach conclusions. In that sense, there is an inherent educational role that journalists must assume.”
This was before I started documenting the almost advocacy-like coverage of many screening tests by many news organizations – emphasizing benefits while minimizing or totally ignoring potential harms. I concluded that 2005 piece this way:
“Journalists must weigh the balance between the amount of attention given news about medicine and the attention given news about health and the social determinants of health. There may be too much news about the delivery of medical services and not enough news about the cost of, quality of, and evidence for those services. The current imbalance may contribute to the nation’s health-care cost crisis, driving up demand for expensive, unproven ideas. These are responsibilities journalists may not encounter in covering other topics. In health news, they are everyday issues.”
I was tipped off last week that suddenly, for some reason unknown to me, this seven year old article is now the most viewed on PLoS Medicine, which is an open access online journal.
PLoS Medicine is a journal that posts traffic metrics. From their site, the graph below paints the picture of the sudden interest in the article this month. According to this chart, nearly 30% of the page views of this 7-year old article have occurred just this month of March 2012 so far.
Yes, the article continues to be cited from time to time.
But I can’t find any reason behind the sudden spike in traffic.
Clues are welcome.