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 -

Five Star Friday – news releases that shine or stink

Blue 5-starAfter systematically reviewing 122 PR news releases in the past year, our reviewers have only graded 5 PR releases with a top 5-star score.  And one came this week – for a news release from Washington University in Saint Louis, “To Prevent Infection After C-Section, Chlorhexidine Better Than Iodine.”  Our reviewers noted:  “Like another release we recently reviewed on chocolate for preventing preeclampsia, this one focused on a study presented at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s annual meeting. This quality of this well-crafted release is a nice contrast to the previous one that was graded 0 stars.”

At the other end of the spectrum, it’s good to see others weighing in on the problems that we’ve documented in our year-long (and more) review of health care news releases. Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus wrote on their STAT News column, “Press releases stink. Here’s why that matters.” They noted some of our recent reviews and added some examples.

At least one other STAT News piece this week was especially noteworthy – Sharon Begley’s explainer, “Are we facing an Alzheimer’s armageddon?

It’s encouraging to see even blips of extra investigative effort on the network TV screen, and so the CBS News piece online and on the air,  “In modern-day gold rush of genetic testing, profit placed above proof,” is worth a look.

And, in a head-to-head comparison, a Reuters Health story on research to find a therapy for jet lag earned a 5-star score from our reviewers, better, in their eyes, than a story (3 stars).

And, in case you missed it, last week our reviewers thought that a New York Times piece by Sandra Blakeslee, “Using a Mother’s Microbes to Protect Cesarean Babies,” deserved a 5-star rating as well.

We love it when we can shine a light on excellence in health care journalism.  We can’t see everything, and we undoubtedly missed a number of gems, but these were some whose sparkle caught our eyes.


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