Gary Schwitzer has specialized in health care journalism in his 46-year career in radio, television, interactive multimedia and the Internet.
- evaluated and graded daily health news reporting by major U.S. news organizations.
- evaluated and graded health care news releases from many sources – government agencies, medical journals, industry, academic medical centers, etc.
- produced a toolkit of tips and resources to help journalists and the general public to improve their critical thinking about health care interventions
- contributed to the site’s blog
- contributed to the site’s podcasts
The project is now in a quiet state, after grant funding expired at the end of 2018. In the project’s first year, it was honored with several journalism industry awards – the Mirror Award, honoring those who “hold a mirror to their own industry for the public’s benefit,” and the Knight-Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism. His blog – which is embedded within HealthNewsReview.org – was voted 2009 Best Medical Blog in competition hosted by Medgadget.com.
In 2013, Schwitzer received an Adjunct Associate Professor appointment from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.
From 2001-2010, he was on the faculty of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota, teaching health journalism and media ethics, and earning tenure in 2007. He left that position to devote fulltime to HealthNewsReview.org.
In 2000, he was the founding Editor-In-Chief of the MayoClinic.com consumer health web site.
During the 1990’s, Gary produced groundbreaking shared decision-making videos for the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making based at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
In the ’80s, he worked for four years at the National Office of the American Heart Association in Dallas.
He was a television medical news reporter for 14 years, with positions at CNN in Atlanta, WFAA-TV in Dallas, and WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee. He was head of the medical news unit at CNN, leading the efforts of ten staff members in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. After leaving the television news business, he soon began to receive many requests to write or speak on the state of health care/medical journalism.
He served two terms as a member of the board of directors of the Association of Health Care Journalists for whom he authored the organization’s Statement of Principles. For that organization he also wrote a guide on how to report on medical research studies.
Schwitzer has written about the state of health journalism in JAMA, JAMA Internal Medicine, the World Health Organization bulletin, Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, BMJ, the American Journal of Bioethics, the Journal of Medical Internet Research, PLoS Medicine, Nieman Reports, Quill, Columbia Journalism Review, Poynter.org, The Daily Beast, The American Editor, and MayoClinic.com. In 2009, the Kaiser Family Foundation published and distributed his white paper on “The State of US Health Journalism.”
He has taught health journalism workshops at the NIH Medicine in the Media series, at the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at MIT Medical Evidence boot camps, at Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) national conferences, at AHCJ chapters in NY, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco, and at National Cancer Institute (NCI) workshops in Rio de Janeiro, Guadalajara, San Juan, Beijing. and in New Delhi and Mumbai, India.
He gave a keynote address at the International Shared Decision Making conference in Lima, Peru in 2013 and delivered a plenary address at the National Medicines Symposium in Brisbane, Australia in 2014. In 2015 and 2016, he spoke at the 3rd and 4th annual Preventing Overdiagnosis conferences at NIH and in Barcelona. In 2016 he also spoke at the Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R) Advancing Ethical Research conference in Anaheim, CA, in the closing general session: Errors of Enthusiasm: Responsible Communication of Research Findings.
Visit this page for a more complete list of talks, workshops and presentations he has delivered in recent years.
In 2014, he was named one of 25 Champions of Shared Decision Making by the Informed Medical Decisions Foundation. Also in 2014, the American Medical Writers Association honored him with the McGovern Award for preeminent contributions to medical communication. Rodale, Inc. named him to its inaugural “Rodale 100” list of “innovators who are changing the face of the health and wellness universe.”
What others have said:
Professor Gerd Gigerenzer, Harding Center for Risk Literacy, Berlin. said:
“You serve as kind of an ethical mirror to journalists and to everyone in the country and I only wish there would be more enterprises like yours and that people would listen. Then their eyes would be open when they hear another promise of ‘a great therapy’ or when they can’t tell the difference between advertising and real science.”
The editors of the journal PLoS Medicine wrote:
“Schwitzer’s alarming report card of the trouble with medical news stories is thus a wake-up call for all of us involved in disseminating health research-researchers, academic institutions, journal editors, reporters, and media organizations-to work collaboratively to improve the standards of health reporting.”
The Canadian Medicine blog said:
“Gary Schwitzer is one of the most astute and intelligent critics of misleading, erroneous and fear-mongering health reporting.”
The Seattle Times said:
“Schwitzer is one of the country’s leading authorities on what’s right and wrong about health coverage in the media.”
William Heisel, journalist and Pulitzer Prize finalist, wrote:
“With the creation of HealthNewsReview.org, (Gary Schwitzer) has brought back nightmares of having your work marked up in red and posted on a corkboard for everyone to see.”
The top-rated KevinMD.com blog wrote:
“Gary Schwitzer is the foremost health media watchdog, with his organization rigorously monitoring the health content of major media.”
Susan Perry, on her MinnPost.com column referred to the HealthNewsReview.org project as:
“indispensable to consumers & journalists”
Dan Gillmor, director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
“Calm and thorough analysis of health news journalism from HealthNewsReview.org”
Former U.S. Senator David Durenberger (R-MN)
“Gary has become the ‘go-to’ guy for good reporting and actionable information. No one other than Gary is taking the time to create a standard of accuracy by which actionable information must be judged. So, every week I take my hat off to Gary.”
Association of Health Care Journalists “Covering Health” blog
“When Gary Schwitzer writes on the future of health journalism, his words carry the weight of a database loaded with more than 1,000 reviewed stories. Like Charles Darwin’s long study of barnacles, Schwitzer’s micro-level scrutiny of the industry has left him uniquely equipped to tackle the big picture stuff as well. Which is why, when he draws a line in the sand… we should probably listen.”
Dr. Steven Kussin, Director of The Shared Decision Center, wrote:
“Teaching Literacy and Numeracy: When it comes to the media and medicine, all doctors should suggest patients register at Gary Schwitzer’s site https://www.healthnewsreview.org/ .”
Paul Raeburn, then editor of the Knight Science Journalism Tracker:
“I’m beginning to think that Schwitzer’s criteria for judging stories ought to be printed on wallet cards for reporters, like Miranda warnings, to remind them what questions to ask. I could use one of those myself.”
Publications (sole author unless otherwise noted)
- The Magical Medical Media Tour. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1(4) 267, 1992.
- Doctoring the news: miracle cures, video press releases, and TV medical reporting. Quill, 1992
- Are machines driving public demand? News media coverage of medical technology, The Internist: Health Policy in Practice, 33(9) , 1992.
- The Seven Words You Shouldn’t Use in Medical News: MayoClinic.com, 2000
- A review of features in Internet consumer health decision-support tools: Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2002
- Merely lights and wires? Minnesota Medicine, 2003
- Cloning announcement spawns ethical debate The Bulletin of the University of Minnesota Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law, 2003
- How the media left the evidence out in the cold British Medical Journal, 2003.
- TV health news: on road to irrelevance? Minnesota Health Care News, 2004
- A Statement of Principles for Health Care Journalists. The American Journal of Bioethics 4(4):W9, 2004
- Ten troublesome trends in TV health news. British Medical Journal, 329 1352, 2004.
- Time to put “miracle” on ice. Minnesota Medical Association, Minnesota Medicine, 87 46, 2004.
- The failure of local TV news to cover health policy in 2004. British Medical Journal.
- Why Journalists Struggle With the Chronic Illness Story. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Meeting the Challenge of Chronic Illness, 239-251, 2005.
- The Agenda-Setting Role of Health Journalists. Gary Schwitzer, Ganapati Mudur, David Henry, Amanda Wilson, Merrill Goozner, Maria Simbra, Melissa Sweet, Katherine A Baverstock. PLos Medicine. 2005
- Commercialism In TV Health News. Poynter Institute website, 2005. Link
- Separating the puppets from the pros in TV health news. Columbia Journalism Review, 2005
- Beyond cures, breakthroughs and new releases. Poynter Institute website, 2005
- Unhealthy Advocacy- Journalists and Health Screening Tests. Poynter Institute website, 2007
- Misplaced priorities in health news coverage. The American Editor: the bulletin of The American Society of Newspaper Editors. November 2007
- Is this test really necessary? Star Tribune, February 28, 2008.
- How Do US Journalists Cover Treatments, Tests, Products and Procedures: An Evaluation of 500 Stories. PLoS Mediciine, 5, e95.
- Science Journalists Cross the Line. The Daily Beast, October 28, 2008.
- Changing the Drumbeat of Typical Health Reporting. The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, Nieman Reports, Spring 2009
- The State of Health Journalism in the US. A Report to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 2009.
- Network TV Morning Health News Segments May Be Harmful To Your Health. Aug. 3, 2009
- Covering Medical Research: A Guide to Reporting on Studies. Spring 2010. Association of Health Care Journalists.
- News coverage chapter in FDA book, “Communicating Risks and Benefits: An Evidence-Based Users Guide.” pp. 185-193. Published August, 2011.
- Addressing tensions when popular media and evidence-based care collide. BioMed Central Medical Informatics & Decision Making. 2013.
- “First Do No Harm: Pressing for Accuracy, Balance and Completeness in Health and Medical Journalism“ chapter in book, “First Do No Harm: Reporting on Health and Healthcare.” 2014. pp. 81-87. Libri Publishing.
- A Guide to Reading Health Care News. JAMA Internal Medicine. Published online May 05, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.1359.
- Trying to drink from a fire hose: too much of the wrong kind of health care news. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences 36 (2015), pp. 623-627. Published online October 1, 2015.
- Statins, news and nuance. Editorial in The BMJ. June 28, 2016.
- How can journalists do a better job reporting on the principles of shared decision making? Chapter 41 in “Shared Decision Making in Health Care: Achieving evidence-based patient choice,” 3rd edition, Oxford University Press, 2016.
- One Step Forward One Step Back: Changes in News Coverage of Medical Interventions. Kim Walsh-Childers, Jennifer Braddock, Cristina Rabaza & Gary Schwitzer. Health Communication.33:2, 174-187. https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2016.1250706
- Pollution of health news: time to drain the swamp. Editorial in The BMJ, March 15, 2017. BMJ 2017;356:j1262
- Why Bolstering Trust in Journalism Could Help Strengthen Trust in Medicine. Arora VM, Rousseau D, Schwitzer G. Journal of the American Medical Association. Published online May 13, 2019. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.0636
- Three randomized controlled trials evaluating the impact of “spin” in health news stories reporting studies of pharmacologic treatments on patients’/caregivers’ interpretation of treatment benefit. Isabelle Boutron, Romana Haneef, Amélie Yavchitz, Gabriel Baron, John Novack, Ivan Oransky, Gary Schwitzer and Philippe Ravaud. BMC Medicine 2019;17:105. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-019-1330-9
Sampling of media interviews
- In 2006 – the year this project was launched, we got a boost from this segment on “On the Media” on National Public Radio – “Health News Gets A Checkup” (the audio at this link is for a different segment, but the correct segment transcript is posted)
- 2009 – “On the Media” on National Public Radio – “Prognosis Negative”
- 2014 – “On the Media” on National Public Radio – “The Worried Well Whipped Into a Frenzy”
- 2015 – “On the Media” on National Public Radio – “A Skeptic’s Guide to Health News & Diet Fads” (includes a Breaking News Consumers Handbook on Health News based largely on our work)
- 2015 – MinnPost.com – “Confused by a drumbeat of health news ‘dreck?’ A Minnesota-based website aims to help.”
- 2015 – Chicago Tribune – “Health watchdog sets the record straight on which studies to believe”
- 2016 – Meet the guy who calls out B.S. health news for a living. Men’s Health.
- 2016 – Marketwatch.com – “Why you really can’t believe everything you read about your health.”
- 2016 – New York magazine – “HealthNewsReview.org’s Gary Schwitzer on What’s Wrong (and Right) With the Media.”
- 2016 – The Poynter Institute website – “5 tips for fact-checking claims about health“
- 2017 – Campaigning for a fact-based approach to health journalism. Bulletin of World Health Organization. 95:248–249 | http://dx.doi.org/10.2471/BLT.17.030417
- 2017 – Feeding the Watchdog HealthNewsReview Has a Voracious Appetite for Analyses. Crain’s NewsPro magazine. May 2017.
- 2017 – Health news watchdog: The U’s Gary Schwitzer is on a mission to keep medical reporting honest. University of Minnesota Foundation Legacy magazine, Spring 2017.
- 2017 – The Ethics of Science and Health Journalism- A Q&A with Gary Schwitzer . Wiley Exchanges blog. June 8, 2017.
- 2018 – Undark magazine at MIT – With funding scarce, HealthNewsReview.org hurtles towards closure.
- 2019 – Bloomberg News – If Only There Were a Fix for the Medical Misinformation Online
- 2019 – Nieman Lab at Harvard – Health coverage loses its booster shot after funding runs out for this media critic.
- 2019 – Undark magazine at MIT – Revisiting the role of the science journalist.
- American Medical Writers Association, New England chapter, award of excellence, 1993
- e-Healthcare Leadership Awards, Gold Award, 2001
- Kanter Family Foundation, 2001
- National Association of Science Writers, Science-In-Society Award and American Heart Association Howard W. Blakeslee Award, 1989
- World Wide Web Health Gold Award, Health Information Resource Center, 2000
- Knight Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism for creation of HealthNewsReview.org, 2006
- Mirror Award for media industry reporting – from S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University, 2007
- Poynter Institute Ethics Fellow , 2008 – 2009
- 2009 Best Medical Weblog Award.
- Named one of 25 Champions of Shared Decision Making by Informed Medical Decisions Foundation, 2014.
- McGovern Award for preeminent contributions to medical communication – American Medical Writers Association, 2014. (Past recipients include George Lundberg, John K. Iglehart, Anthony Fauci, Art Caplan, Sherwin Nuland, Jerome Groopman and others.)
- 2016: Named to initial Rodale 100 list from the Rodale publishing company, “honoring trailblazers positively impacting lives around the world.”
- Visit this page for a more complete list of accolades which HealthNewsReview.org has received
2016 talk at U of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation