NYT proclaims “Breaking News”!

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.

Breaking News!

What does that mean?  Besides sinking to the level of the old TV news style of “If it bleeds, it leads” newscasts.

But the New York Times trotted out that tired old trope by tweeting, ‘Breaking News: A brain implant allowed a fully paralyzed man to communicate using his thoughts, a newly published study reported.” 

I’m on a camping vacation and don’t have a computer with me, but I had to make at least a few comments about this post.

What does/should breaking news mean?  I suggest that it means “Drop everything….this is something you must know right now…it will rock your world” – or something similar.

But here is what the term was applied to:

  • a story about one person in an experiment – a person apparently not even being followed by the researchers anymore;
  • a finding reported by two researchers who – according to the revelation that begins in the story’s seventh paragraph – were found by the German Research Foundation to have committed scientific misconduct and were sanctioned by that group;
  • a finding which one researcher quoted in the story said “should be taken with a massive mountain of salt”;
  • a story that was also reported the same day by STAT – perhaps even earlier in the day by STAT.  Since I don’t buy into the whole breaking news hype, I don’t get into judgment about who was first.  Either way, it makes the whole “Breaking News” BS more evident.
  • a story that STAT’s headline handled much more reasonably, stating: “With new ‘brain-reading’ research, a once-tarnished scientist seeks redemption.”  That puts the elephant in the room actually in the room much sooner for all readers to see immediately.
  • a story that the NYT writer promoted in Twitter in this way:  “tadaa!  My first article for @nytimes is out.”

I emphasize that research looking for ways to help paralyzed people communicate is important. Some impressive, meaningful advances have already been made in this field.

Readers don’t benefit from “Breaking News” hype.  Please allow the science, the data, the long-term results replicated by others to speak for itself.

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