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