Deifying a doctor; fawning sensationalism

Excerpt from the Paula Zahn Now program on CNN from last Wednesday, April 20: “Reporter” Sharon Collins had the “People in the News” profile of a pediatric heart surgeon. Zahn’s intro said the surgeon “performs small miracles for desperate parents.” Collins, early in the piece said, “That man is Mohan Reddy or as many parents […]

2 4/25/2005

Alzheimer's gene therapy hype

This story appeared in my local paper today: “The first attempt at gene therapy for Alzheimer’s patients appeared to significantly delay worsening of the disease in a few people who have tested it so far. Scientists took skin cells from eight patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and modified the genes to secrete a […]


Broadcasters should have to disclose all commercial sources

At a panel I organized and moderated entitled “Creeping Commercialism in TV News” at the Broadcast Education Association conference in Las Vegas yesterday, WFLA-TV Tampa news director Forrest Carr called for FCC regulations requiring stations to disclose any commercial source of guest interviews, video, or on-air information. He said what the FCC recently stated regarding […]


Confessions of a VNR user

The Post-Standard of Syracuse profiles a local TV station that used a Medicare video news release in February. How did it happen? The general manager says since they got it from the CNN Newsource news feed, they thought it was legitimate news. CNN’s Newsource transmits not only news but news releases to subscribers around the […]


Why so much hype for one procedure?

The New York Times and at least one television network newscast profiled a first-of-its-kind aortic valve implant done through a catheter feeding the device through a vein in the patient’s leg rather than by open heart surgery. Why such hype? As the Times reports, the operation was the first of “at least 150 that federal […]


Beyond cures, breakthroughs and news releases

Please see my article on the Poynter Institute website today. It touches on cheerleading in coverage of health news, on commercialism in health news coverage, on widespread conflicts of interest in the dissemination of health news, on the power of words in health news, and on some of the good things being done to improve […]


Journalists: how will states handle Medicaid this year?

Journalists should scrutinize their state legislatures’ handling of Medicaid in 2005. Feeling squeezed by the feds, states are caught in a bind. Minnesota Public Radio quoted the state finance commissioner: “Health and human services is growing 20 percent from one biennium to the next. We don’t have revenues growing at that rate. And that’s a […]


Journalists (and scientists) should use absolute risks

Stories like today’s about naproxen causing “a 50 percent greater risk of heart attacks and stroke than placebo” can be meaningless if they don’t provide the ABSOLUTE risk. The 50% figure is the relative risk — naproxen’s rate relative to placebo. But we’re not told the ABSOLUTE rate: how many people actually had heart attacks […]


Ten Troublesome Trends in TV Health News

See my review article in this week’s British Medical Journal. http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/329/7478/1352


Tips & Resources for Analyzing Health Care Claims

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