Part of our website will disappear on April 1. But the main features of the site will remain. Here’s the breakdown and some background.
When I started publishing HealthNewsReview.org 15 years ago, the only content was news reviews. To be more specific, we only reviewed news items that included claims about health care interventions (treatments, tests, products, procedures, etc.). Because we apply 10 standardized criteria for reviewing these stories, almost always with three independent reviewers (representing a mix of journalists, clinicians, and others trained in evaluating the evidence), the approach quickly gained credibility and a devoted audience. Rather than offering a subjective thumbs-up or thumbs-down, our reviews were the purest, most objective, systematic, and analytical way we knew to evaluate the health care claims reported to many Americans.
When substantial funding for the project ran out at the end of 2018, my team, which had grown to about 50 reviewers, had systematically reviewed 2,616 stories.
From 2015 to 2018, the team took a similar approach by systematically reviewing 606 public relations press release reviews.
You can read more about the final report card in these 3222 reviews.
Over the years, we added other types of content that became very popular with thousands of followers:
- 2933 blog posts – Unlike systematic reviews that focused only on news and press releases, these posts addressed advertising, marketing, talk shows, magazines, or pre-print publishing practices – a much broader range of issues communication that often have a negative impact on the public. dialogue about health care.
- Two Dozen Tips for Analyzing Studies, Medical Evidence, and Health Care Claims – Primer for explaining many of the concepts explored in everything we publish.
- Over 40 “Just for Journalists” tips and case studies for writing about health care
- A list of more than 100 independent industry experts to help journalists do their jobs more comprehensively, with independent perspectives and without conflict.
- 20+ patient stories about perceived harm from misleading media messages, one of the most important features of the site in my opinion, with many heartbreaking stories
- 50 podcasts: with interviews with leading physician-researchers, patients, and journalists. Audio from only some of the podcasts remains on the site and even those will be removed soon. I don’t have the staff or funds to add new podcasts or pay to host past productions.
Why we need to remove reviews
Now, due to the age of some of the original coding and structure of the website dating back 16 years, counting our year of beta development, systematic reviews can no longer be maintained. The website now runs on a WordPress platform that needs to be updated occasionally. But when my webmaster tried to update WordPress recently, all the systematic reviews disappeared. If we don’t update WordPress, the website will eventually be unstable. So I really have no choice but to remove the 3222 news and press release reviews ASAP.
As a result, I chose April 1, 2021 as the day these reviews will be removed from the site. I would do it sooner, but I want to give fans a chance to read the reviews and learn from them.
After April 1, you will still be able to view our blog, the site’s most popular feature, tips, manuals and case studies, and stories of deceptive media harm to patients.
It saddens me to have no choice but to delete the reviews. From the moment that I first saw Media Doctor Australia Project Following this path in 2004, I was impressed. So when Floyd (Jack) Fowler, Jr., PhD and the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making helped me get started with funding – support that continued from them for 8 years – our project soon became the largest with the broadest reach of any of the six similar projects that emerged in all the world. Later, funding from the Arnold Foundation allowed us to reach new heights during four years of much greater impact.
The criticisms were our bread and butter.
No other project in the US has tried anything similar to what we did with those criteria-based reviews. Others have made claims about fact-checking projects. I’ve written about the difference between fact-checking and what we did, pointing out the inherent potential flaws of fact-checking in healthcare media messages.
A bioethicist recently wrote to me: “What you have done is extraordinary. Information is very important, and not just for journalists ”.
The first part of that comment is very kind. The second part is right on the money; I always saw this project as useful to the general public. As our banner says, “Improve your critical thinking about health care.” Criteria-based reviews were an important factor in providing that kind of help to citizens / patients.
I’m not sure how often I’ll be adding new material to the website in 2021. The years 2020 and 2021 so far have taken the wind out of my sails. The pandemic, vaccine / treatment publicity, confusing and contradictory statements from federal health agency leaders (Azar and Atlas top the list), ugliest politics, unequal justice, violence, attack on the US Capitol And the refusal of many elected officials to do anything about it all adds up to the worst year of disinformation from the American public this journalist has seen in his 48-year career.
I will post when I think I can add something that is not being addressed properly.
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