Note to our followers: Our nearly 13-year run of daily publication of new content on HealthNewsReview.org came to a close at the end of 2018. Publisher Gary Schwitzer and other contributors may post new articles periodically. But all of the 6,000+ articles we have published contain lessons to help you improve your critical thinking about health care interventions. And those will be still be alive on the site for a couple of years.

HealthNewsReview.org’s 9th anniversary – that almost didn’t happen

PrintToday is the 9th anniversary of HealthNewsReview.org. And, although we didn’t plan it this way, today is the day we introduce our new look, our new design, with some new features.

Last year, on our 8th anniversary, I thought the project was dead.

But now, with new funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and with a new institutional home in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, we’ve been able to rebuild our team of contributors and also rebuild and redesign our website. And, besides our bread-and-butter journalism reviews, we have started reviewing health care news releases – from government agencies, medical journals, medical centers, drug and device manufacturers and others.

Rather than count candles, I’ll count stories and other stats.

We have reviewed nearly 2,000 stories – 1,976 to be exact. And, as of today, we’ve now published one health care-related news release as well.  Many more of those to come.

Here’s a breakdown of how many stories got top-rated 5-star scores or any other level of grade. The star score is automatically generated based on how many of our 10 criteria were judged by our reviewers to be addressed satisfactorily in the story.

Grade

# stories

% of total

5-star

286

14%

4-star

495

25%

3-star

545

28%

2-star

439

22%

1-star

142

7%

0-star

69

4%

 

Other stats:

  • Average score for all 1,976 stories:  3.07 stars
    • Associated Press – 255 stories – 3.6 stars
    • CNN.com – 43 stories – 2.98 stars
    • HealthDay – 206 stories – 2.93 stars (I want to point out that HealthDay was highlighted twice last week for reporting the limitations of observational studies better than many competitors.) 
    • Los Angeles Times – 148 stories – 3.49 stars
    • New York Times – 140 stories – 3.49 stars
    • NPR.org – 50 stories – 3.54 stars
    • Reuters Health – 143 stories – 3.24 stars
    • TIME.com – 34 stories – 2.79 stars
    • US News & World Report – 32 stories – 2.97 stars
    • USA Today – 63 stories – 3.46 stars
    • Wall Street Journal – 117 stories – 3.39 stars
    • Washington Post – 51 stories – 3.24 stars

I emphasize that as deep as our database is – and no one in the U.S. that I’m aware of has systematically tracked more stories than we have with such rigor for so long – this is still a relatively small sample from any one news organization.  We talk more about this in our “How We Rate Stories & News Releases” section.

And here’s the breakdown of how many of the 1,976 stories we’ve reviewed were judged satisfactory on each of the 10 criteria:

Criteria

Satisfactory

Unsatisfactory

N/A

Total

Percent

(Total – N/A)

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

509

1155

312

1976

31 %

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

666

1282

28

1976

34 %

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

671

1224

81

1976

35 %

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

764

1207

5

1976

39 %

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

1484

416

76

1976

78 %

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

1083

888

5

1976

55 %

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

840

1077

59

1976

44 %

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

1309

473

194

1976

73 %

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

1455

419

102

1976

78 %

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?*

1441

124

411

1976

92 %

* Note:  the news release criterion grades are skewed in favor of satisfactory scores because in order for our reviewers to judge a story as unsatisfactory, they must have a copy of a news release in hand.  And that’s not always possible.  Thus, the large number of N/A scores. 

 With unsatisfactory grades as an average for five criteria – the ones that are arguably the most important – you can see that there’s a lot of work left to do, many more people to be reached and trained to do a better job.

I’ve already done one newsroom training workshop so far this year.  Next week, I’ll do another at the annual conference of the Association of Health Care Journalists, in Santa Clara, California. But I plan to do several more in 2015, so if you know of an interested newsroom – or an institution that writes a lot of health care news releases – let me know.

And thanks to so many of you who’ve stayed with us for 9 years.  Stick around for our teen years!

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Comments (3)

Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.

Tabitha M. Powledge

April 16, 2015 at 4:16 pm

So glad you can continue your good work; medical journalism needs you more than ever. The site redesign is quite handsome too. But as I don’t need to tell you, the content is what counts.

David Finer

April 17, 2015 at 12:33 am

Congratulations!

Annette Bar-Cohen

April 20, 2015 at 5:57 pm

Congratulations! You have contributed mightily to the evidence based health reporting in this country. Gary, we at NBCC applaud you and the HNR reviewers!