December 28, 2020
Reflections on 2020: You can’t mask this reality
Gary Schwitzer is the founder and publisher of HealthNewsReview. He has covered health care news almost exclusively since 1973. Here is his online bio. He tweets as @garyschwitzer or as @HealthNewsRevu.
It is deeply disheartening for me to reflect on how health care information was miscommunicated so often by so many different players in 2020. In my 47-year career, I never saw a President, his Administration, some federal health agency leaders, many elected officials and so many others distort and deceive and mislead Americans so often on vital health care issues as I witnessed this past year. Some news organizations and individual journalists rose to new heights in clarifying and analyzing to help the public. But other corners of the journalism and public relations professions sunk to the bottom of the daily drumbeat of dreck – harming more than helping.
On this page I am posting links to each of the 44 articles I published on HealthNewsReview.org in 2020. I wrote all but four of them; the others were written by Mary Chris Jaklevic, who now writes for the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Many of the lessons embedded in these posts are as valid today as they were even if published months ago.
January 15: A machine-versus-doctors fixation masks important questions about artificial intelligence.
January 17: How easy it is to be misled by Medicare Advantage marketing
(The 2-month gap in publishing occurred when I thought it was safe to go on vacation. You can see that ended abruptly in March.)
March 19: News release labeling to combat a global scourge of exaggerated claims
March 20: Suffering sciatica! How 2 stories on same study reported with different emphases
The President and the pandemic: two months of dithering, deceit and distortion
March 26: Federal health agencies block journalists’ access to COVID-19 experts & information.
April 1: Strong caveats are lacking as news stories trumpet preliminary COVID-19 research
April 9: Self-promoting MDs hawk unproven COVID-19 pandemic treatments
April 16: ‘Love your lungs’? Exaggerated screening claims seem more out of step than ever
April 17: Slow down your giddy on Gilead news
April 21: NY Times “Well” column is unwell again – this time on pandemic running advice
April 23: Shining a light on super-spreaders of coronavirus misinformation
April 29: The COVID-19 research news rollercoaster is running again: STAT News + Gilead’s remdesivir
What the public didn’t hear about the NIH remdesivir trial
May 3: The start of a study is often not newsworthy – even when you bring God into it
May 5: Thanks for missing HealthNewsReview.org, but it’s still here
May 5: Mutant coronavirus story upsets scientists about preprint journalism
May 7: Flubs and flaws in New York Times stories on llamas and coffee
May 19: Warning: early vaccine trial results don’t always stand test of time
Journalism in pandemic: online training for thousands of international journalists
May 21: Avoid single patient, single source COVID-19 stories – especially on “cures”
June 2: 60 Minutes promotes one hospital’s “promise of plasma”
June 3: Reuters report is another classic case study in how NOT to cover COVID-19 news
June 12: Same old, same old, with NY Times Well column – bisphosphonates for pneumonia this time
June 16: Following the dexamethasone COVID-19 drug news as it unfolds
June 17: Pharma PR appears as unvetted COVID-19 vaccine news in STAT newsletter
June 30: For breakfast, give me 2 observational studies and an anti-irritant
July 3: Some global reaction to the news of US mass purchase of remdesivir
July 13: Why make international news out of 9 vague patient reports on remdesivir?
July 17: Criticism of NY Times’ Coronavirus Drug and Treatment Tracker
July 21: JAMA: Communicating Science in the Time of a Pandemic
JAMA: Communicating Science in the Time of a Pandemic
July 21: One day of COVID-19 drug & vaccine news provides cautious reminders
July 24: HealthNewsReview.org in the news about COVID-19
July 28: What you need to know about the Alzheimer’s test news
July 30: Things you should think about when you hear “vaccine by end of the year”
August 5: Drug company influence on journalism
August 6: Crazy week of PR & news on studies should teach us how/what to ignore
August 24: Convalescent plasma: another controversial clash of politics & science
September 4: It has come to this: ignore vaccines-in-animals drug industry PR & news
Perfect storm of politics, PR, polluted messages to the public
September 24: How COVID-19 drug/vaccine decisions might be based on little evidence
November 9: Post-election health report: a time for healing
November 9: Transparency by drug companies, scrutiny by journalists, vital in vaccine news
November 23: “Investigating Health & Medicine” – Global Investigative Journalism Network Our contribution to a new global resource