Note to our followers: Due to a lack of sufficient funding, will cease daily publication of new content at the end of 2018. Publisher Gary Schwitzer and other contributors may post new articles periodically. If you wish to donate, your gift might help keep the site available to the public for a few more years, by defraying costs of web hosting and maintenance. All of our 6,000+ published articles contain lessons to help people improve their critical thinking about health care. Read more about our change in status. And here's how to make a donation.

Criterion #10 Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Sometimes news stories rely solely or largely on a PR news release–and never disclose that the information came from a news release. Readers deserve to know if a story includes no original reporting. 

About 8% of news stories we’ve reviewed relied solely on a news release. That’s 8% too many.

With many news organizations facing tough economic times, financial pressures may lead some newsrooms to become more open to using news releases as a way to publish content while cutting costs. News releases can be valid sources of some information. But journalism is charged with the task of independently vetting claims. So it is unacceptable to rely on a news release as the sole source of information–and to not disclose that.

There are many vested interests in health care trying to influence consumer choices. We expect journalism to use independent verification – not to rely on news releases or company spokesmen.

Victor Montori, MD, is a diabetes specialist at the Mayo Clinic:

Examples of stories that relied on a news release:

No original reporting: Fox News story rehashes news release for story on autism and fecal transplants Reviewers noted that the story relies heavily on the news release, with no independent sources, no disclosure of conflicts of interest among the researchers, and no discussion of costs or harms.

Guardian predicts end to insulin shots based on rehashed news release, mouse research
The story is problematic on several levels, but the most glaring issue is that it appears to be little more than a rehash of the news release. Meanwhile, there is no discussion of the realities: Islet transplants are costly, carry adverse effects, can fail, and are complex to manage. How will this therapy differ? We’re not told.

Breast density and mammograms: LA Times story leans hard on news release
The article quotes only one of the lead investigators of the study, and used the same quote found in the news release, with no attribution. Other news stories on this study often included comments from cancer clinicians and investigators not affiliated with the study, most of whom emphasize the complexity of the risk calculations and the human factors that drive medical decision making.

<< Click to go back to all 10 Review Criteria