In what is probably the most thorough article ever written about our 9 years of work on HealthNewsReview.org, Susan Perry of MinnPost.com published, “Confused by a drumbeat of health news ‘dreck?’ A Minnesota-based website aims to help.” Out of a nearly 2,300-word article, my favorite words were just these 17:
“But Health News Review is less about shaming health reporters than helping them do their job better.”
If more journalists, like Perry, embraced our work like this – for what it is – we might see huge improvements in how journalists disseminate health care news and information to the public.
Last evening, NPR’s Ombudsman/Public Editor, Elizabeth Jensen, published an article agreeing with our criticism of an imbalanced NPR political story on new draft mammography recommendations from the US Preventive Services Task Force. She wrote:
Schwitzer wrote that while the NPR story quoted three current or former politicians, all of whom were opposed to the guidelines, “the four-minute piece had no interview with anyone with the Task Force. Not a quote. Not a word. That’s imbalance. You can talk about bipartisan opposition all you want. But on a scientific controversy, citing bipartisan opposition doesn’t equate to balanced or sound journalism.”
I agree. Even as a piece about politics, not science, it needed at least a summary of the task force recommendations. The online headline is also skewed toward the Congressional critics, making it sound as though Congress has no choice but to intervene in the issue.
She also cited Kevin Lomangino, our managing editor, for his comments on “an online story by Katherine Hobson (which) looked in an intensely personal way at the internal debates the varying viewpoints have caused for patients.”
As Susan Perry wrote on MinnPost.com, our efforts are not intended to “shame” anyone. But journalists (and advertisers, and marketing and public relations professionals) must do a better job with accuracy, balance and completeness of health care media messages. And we intend our critiques to help them do that.