4/23/2020

Shining a light on super-spreaders of coronavirus misinformation

NewsGuard calls itself “The Internet Trust Tool.”  And there may have never been a better time to help consumers learn whom to trust than the COVID-19 pandemic era. (You can read more about NewsGuard’s operating model on their site, or in an article one of their staffers published on STAT.) NewsGuard is a browser extension that […]

4/21/2020

NY Times “Well” column is unwell again – this time on pandemic running advice

I admire much of the great journalism being delivered by the New York Times on COVID-19 pandemic issues. But I continue to be befuddled many weeks by the decision-making and editorial judgment of the Times’ Well column.  We have written several times about how unwell is the Well feature. Today, one of our former physician-contributors, […]

4/17/2020

Slow down your giddyup on Gilead news

This is what STAT reported in what they labeled an “Exclusive” last evening. Early peek at data on Gilead coronavirus drug suggests patients are responding to treatment   Other news organizations played copycat, adding caveats Fox News picked up on the STAT story, but added its own caveats: “Partial data from an ongoing clinical trial […]

4/16/2020

‘Love your lungs’? Exaggerated screening claims seem more out of step than ever

A video on the website of Wisconsin-based Gundersen Health System makes an emotional pitch for lung cancer screening. We see a woman blowing soap bubbles with a child. A jogger exhaling after a winter run. A multi-generational family cheering at something on TV. An older woman blowing out candles on a birthday cake. “Your lungs […]

4/9/2020

Self-promoting MDs hawk unproven COVID-19 pandemic treatments

A friend called last week to tell me about a doctor with a big Facebook following. Her concern? This doctor, Steven Hotze, MD, popular for his Houston-based wellness clinic, his books, and his many media appearances, says that people should not worry about COVID-19 because it’s no worse than the flu. Here’s an excerpt from […]

4/1/2020

Strong caveats are lacking as news stories trumpet preliminary COVID-19 research

For years medical researchers held off while scientists in other fields embraced online platforms for posting rough drafts of manuscripts, known as preprints. Those websites accelerate basic science by allowing researchers to disseminate findings and get feedback on their work before submitting them to a traditional journal. Some argue that such rapid data sharing is […]

3/26/2020

Federal health agencies block journalists’ access to COVID-19 experts & information

It is a form of censorship.  Journalists trying to cover COVID-19 are not allowed to talk with many federal health researchers or administrators without checking in first with government “public information officers” or PIOs. Sometimes the request is denied outright. Oftentimes, if a reporter is granted an interview, a PIO insists on sitting in on […]

3/22/2020

The President and the pandemic: two months of dithering, deceit and distortion

On January 22, 2020, President Donald Trump told the American public: “We have it totally under control.”  No, we didn’t. We don’t. And no one can say how or when we will. I have compiled a roundup of Trump’s distortions, evasions, and lies on the coronavirus outbreak as documented by more than 20 diligent news organizations in news […]

3/20/2020

Suffering sciatica! How 2 stories on same study reported with different emphases

This week we were presented with another opportunity to see how the framing of stories about medical studies matters. Are results reported almost unquestioningly, with an emphasis on potential benefits but with few or no caveats or limitations? Or is the potential benefit of the results presented right alongside potential limitations – with caveats and […]

3/19/2020

News release labeling to combat a global scourge of exaggerated claims

Even with an unfolding pandemic, there’s no shortage of overreaching public relations news releases to mislead the public. Australia’s University of Queensland announced its researchers would deploy “rapid response technology” to develop a coronavirus vaccine “which could be available worldwide in as little as six months.” (Maybe we should wait six months to see if it, […]

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