Parade of pablum in widely-circulated Sunday magazine

ParadeParade magazine makes a lot of claims:

  • Circulation: 22.0 million
  • Readership: 54.1 million
  • Parade is the most widely read magazine in America.
  • Parade magazine is distributed by more than 700 of the country’s finest newspapers, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Baltimore Sun, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, The Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, the New York Daily News, The Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, and The Washington Post.

And then there are the health care claims that are made within the pages of Parade each week.

This week’s edition earned the ire of Erick Turner, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Oregon Health Sciences University. He reacted to a column, “11 Sneaky Hacks for Better Health,” including this:

Parade cat video piece

Another section of the column:

Parade pump up the bass

On Twitter, Turner wrote:

There was the almost-obligatory “Grab a cup of joe” advice to “enhance your performance.”

And the piece explained that “We’re in a sleep recession – the CDC says it’s an epidemic.”

I asked Dr. Turner to tell me more about what bugged him.  He wrote to me:

“Each of these ‘hacks’ cited ‘studies’ or ‘experts’. With so much new data coming out every day, you struggle to keep your head above water. A lot of this is of very high quality, but at the same time, the sea of information is contaminated with so much low-quality flotsam and jetsam. It’s especially baffling that there’s a willingness to keep funding this firehose of low-quality information. How often does society need a study touting the benefits of coffee? The consumer of information, unfamiliar with the concept of levels of evidence, arguably sees the word ‘research’ and figures it must be gospel. It seems there should be a believability score included at the front end of each article.”

Why does this matter?  Because, as Parade reminds us:

  • Circulation: 22.0 million
  • Readership: 54.1 million
  • Parade is the most widely read magazine in America.

Rather than feed all of those readers fluffy health news pablum, you could actually help them by biting off truly meaningful health care topics – more meaningful than “cutest kitty” videos.

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Comments (1)

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Joe Ellison

May 2, 2016 at 9:29 am

Curious about the music research, a quick search turns up this, and the citation to Dennis Y. Hsu et al. The Music of Power: Perceptual and Behavioral Consequences of Powerful Music. Social Psychological and Personality Science, August 2014 DOI: 10.1177/1948550614542345. The research was performed by faculty of the business school. I haven’t read it yet, but I doubt that Queen figures heavily, given this quote from Science Daily:
“The idea is that when people hear specific music components that express a sense of power, they mimic these feelings internally. “Importantly, because we used novel, never-before-heard music pieces in these experiments, it suggests that the effect may sometimes arise purely out of contagion,” Hsu says. “Of course, this does not preclude the possibility that music could induce a sense of power through other processes, such as conditioning.” ”
I’m guessing the writer for Parade dumbed it down so much they didn’t even notice this statement, nor the fact that they weren’t looking at mood-enhancement, but at enhancing the sense of power. It’s not the same thing, though it is perhaps useful information for people to have, especially as it’s an effect that can be used to manipulate people without their being aware of it. Dr. Turner (and you) are right to be concerned about the way this research was presented.