2017 journalism report card from HealthNewsReview.org

Gary Schwitzer is the founder and publisher of HealthNewsReview.org.  44 years ago he wanted to be a sports reporter, partially because of his love for stats (as seen in this post).  However, he is often disappointed by innumerate health news coverage.

This year-end report card from HealthNewsReview.org is for those of you who love numbers.

We have now systematically reviewed nearly 2,500 news stories, nearly 500 PR news releases, and published more than 2,600 blog posts.

This blog post will focus on the performance of the news organizations we reviewed in 2017.

Of the 10 criteria we use to review news stories and PR news releases about health care interventions – all of which are explained in more detail on this index page and the links therefrom – five could be viewed as arguably more important than the other five.  Here’s a cumulative, 11+-year report card on how all the stories we reviewed have performed on the five criteria we think are the most important.

But many people want to know how individual news organizations perform.  There is an interactive chart on our site that can provide cumulative scores on any of the news organizations that we review regularly. You can play around on that chart to your heart’s content, using the lower pie chart’s pulldown menu to select an individual news organization, check its overall grade, and compare that against the average of the ~2,500 stories we’ve reviewed.

Please note: We can’t possibly review every health care news story that is reported.  Every day we search for stories reported by 25 leading news organizations.  The stories we review by those organizations are not a random sample. It may not be a perfect sample of an organization’s body of work.  But we think it’s a representative sample. Indeed, it’s a bigger sample than anyone else has taken– 2,500 stories in 11+ years, including about 200 this year. Follow this link to read more about what and whom we review, and how.

2017 HealthNewsReview.org report card on news stories

We’ve saved you a little work so that you don’t have to find all of this yourself. Below is a graphic listing the news organizations that got the top 4 grades for 2017 and those which got the 4 worst scores – based on our limited sampling of their work throughout this past year.  The star score of 0 – 5 stars is based on how many satisfactory grades the story received when graded on our 10 systematic criteria.  The conversion to star score is explained here.  In this ranking for 2017, we only considered news organizations which we had reviewed at least 5 times in the year.

Some things change over time, even within the same year

Newsweek, which received 5 high 4-star scores in 2017, seemed to completely disintegrate into poor performance at the end of the year, something we blogged about.

HealthDay, which also received praise on several 4-star stories early this year, ended the year with three straight stinkers that were all based entirely on news releases. We blogged about that disturbing trend as well.

Getty Images

Some things don’t change over time, even over several years

FoxNews.com, with an average star score of 2.13 (38 stories) is the weakest performer of all the news organizations we’ve analyzed on a regular basis. You can read some of those reviews here.  If you add in our blog posts about Fox News health coverage – which doesn’t count in this lowest star score rating – you’ll see even more examples of far less than the best in informing the American public.

Our 5-Star Friday feature often spotlights stories we didn’t systematically review

We can’t assign every story that we see to systematic criteria-driven reviews. This is time- and labor-intensive because we always assign 3 reviewers to such reviews. But when we do see excellence in journalism that we couldn’t fit into our systematic review process, we often shine a light on those efforts in a recurring 5-Star Friday feature. In fact, we published such a feature about 20 times in 2017.  If you want to discover some gems, roam through the index page of 5-Star Friday features and click on the links.

Other year-enders

We published six year-enders on our site this year.

December 15:  2017 Highlights and lowlights as seen by our editorial team

Monday December 18:  PR news release wrap-up.  Closer look at the major themes of what we observed, as we now approach our 500th review.

Wednesday December 20:  A great year for research progress in mice – although news often made it sound like it was in humans

Thursday December 21:  Perspectives from the woman who wakes up every morning and searches the news for us every day – all year long.

Friday December 22:  Memorable lines from memorable interviews from 12 podcasts we produced this year.



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Comments (2)

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Jeff Hurren

December 29, 2017 at 9:44 am

Curious as to why Fox is included in the text but removed from the figure?

    Gary Schwitzer

    December 29, 2017 at 10:04 am

    As explained in the graphic, the 2017 best and worst performers were among those organizations we reviewed a minimum of 5 times in 2017. We didn’t apply our 10 systematic criteria to the review of FoxNews.com five times in 2017.

    But the text refers to the lowest performer over our entire nearly 12 years of reviews, not just 2017. That’s why we reported:

    Some things don’t change over time, even over several years
    FoxNews.com, with an average star score of 2.13 (38 stories) is the weakest performer of all the news organizations we’ve analyzed on a regular basis.

    Gary Schwitzer