The team is back at work with big plans for 2015

Starting today, for the first time in 19 months, we have a team in place again to systematically review certain types of health care news stories from a significant but limited number of news organizations.

Review who we are and what we do

I’ve revised our introductory page about how we rate health care news stories.

You can read a revised list of news organizations that we’ll be checking regularly (look for section heading, “Which news organizations are reviewed?”).

You may also be interested in browsing the list of our team of reviewers – some of whom were with us in the past, but many joining us for the first time.  It’s a terrific, multidisciplinary team of journalists, physicians, health services researchers, other academics, veteran public information professionals (with strong science writing experience), a few public health graduate students and a couple of women trained in the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s Project LEAD training in how to evaluate evidence.  There are too many notable additions for me to mention, but I do want to want to acknowledge the new role for veteran reviewer Kevin Lomangino, who will now be our fulltime managing editor, assuming most of the daily assignment and publishing responsibilities.  Others will be joining our team of contributors soon.

News release reviews to be introduced by Spring, 2015

We’ve waited a long time to have the funding and team in place to also start reviewing health care-related news releases – what some still call “press releases,” which is clearly an outdated term.

We’re redesigning this website to accommodate the new feature, and development of that new site may take until March/April of 2015.  Meantime, we’re using that time to practice doing these news release reviews offline.  It will allow us to hone the process prior to publishing this type of review.

As with the news story reviews, we will use a systematic, criteria-driven approach – the most objective process we can think of.

To help with the reviews, we’ve added some reviewers who’ve been writing health/science news releases for years. Retired Ohio State assistant vice president for research communications Earle Holland is helping us plan this effort.

The Health News Watchdog blog is still alive and barking

When I lost my funding for this project 17 months ago, and I had no income for paying my once-terrific team of contributors, the only way I could keep the site alive was by my own blogging.  I was able to blog enough that I think it deceived some people into thinking that the site was alive and well, which it was not.

Now, though, the blog will be more vibrant than ever.

We will complement our systematic reviews of both news stories and news releases by blogging about other aspects of journalism and of health care public relations, advertising and marketing.

Look for major new contributions from important voices such as veteran journalist Trudy Lieberman, bioethicist Steve Miles, and others.

Journalism workshops, podcasts, and more

I plan to offer at least four workshops for health care journalists and others this year.  Any interested news organization or news-release-publishing organization that is interested in applying to host such a workshop may write to me at

I also plan to experiment with podcasts this coming year.  Sometimes it’s easier – and possibly more effective – for me to talk about our work and our findings than it is to write about same.  We’re going to give it a try.

Please be patient with us

It might be understandable that we’re a little rusty after a 19-month layoff.  Don’t expect new reviews of news stories to be posted today.  It always takes at least a couple of days to process our reviews by multiple reviewers spread across the country.

And if anything doesn’t work with the current website, please let us know.  As mentioned above, we’re redesigning the site and maybe your comments will help shape the look and function of the new site.


As we launch our renewed efforts, I am grateful for the support of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which provided an initial (at least, I hope it’s only an initial) two-year grant.

In parallel, I want to thank John R. Finnegan, Jr., PhD, Dean of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, for providing the new institutional home for the project.

Finally, though, I want to thank all of you who expressed interest in and support for this work over the past 8 years.  It’s great to be back in full-fledged operation again.  I promise you  that we will work harder than ever to earn your continued support and interest.

Gary Schwitzer
Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Director of the Center for Media Communication & Health


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