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An overview of changes at the health media watchdog, HealthNewsReview

The HealthNewsReview website, which evaluates US media coverage of medical interventions, has had an upgrade.

Below is a note from Gary Schwitzer explaining the changes (which have had a positive review from a Society for Participatory Medicine blog).

You can also watch Schwitzer’s explanation in the clip below. As he notes, the site is not only aimed at journalists but is an attempt to improve broad public discussion about health issues.

The next Croakey post will examine some of the funding constraints facing Media Doctor Australia (which helped inspire the establishment of HealthNewsReview).

By contrast, the HealthNewsReview upgrade illustrates the benefits of a stable funding base. The initiative is funded by the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making, which pays for Schwitzer’s time, the freelance journalists that he hires, the reviewers, and for the website developments.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APzZ9OfRgcs&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

***

Behind the HealthNewsReview upgrade

Gary Schwitzer writes:

We listened to your feedback – and here’s how we responded.  After 5 years and 7 months, and after reviewing 1,650 stories and publishing nearly 1,300 blog posts, we’ve revised the site (for the second time).

When we last made changes two years ago, our traffic jumped overnight.  We think these changes are far more important.

We’ve finally added a comment field at the end of each story review so that anyone can comment on our systematic reviews.   We encourage a dialogue so that journalists can explain why they did what they did and readers can express their feelings about stories – and about our reviews. Look for a comment field (like the one pictured below) at the end of every story review.  Please also note our comments policy.

I welcome comments but will delete those with any kind of product pitch, profanity, personal attacks or those from anyone who doesn’t list what appears to be an actual e-mail address. I will also end any thread of comments that are repetitive. Because I moderate comments, I can’t keep reacting to repeatedly inaccurate or unsubstantiated claims. We don’t give medical advice so we won’t respond to questions asking for it.

Our reviewers

We’ve put our reviewers’ names and faces out front so that everyone can see the depth and expertise of our team of story reviewers.  Our user surveys gave us some indication that some past users believed this site was done only by me! From now on, starting with each new review (not retroactively), whoever reviews a story will be listed with a link to a brief bio.  All reviewers’ faces will rotate on the home page – 24 of the current team of 28 displaying at any given time.  The team includes 7 journalists, 19 specialty/medical expert editors, and 2 breast cancer survivors who have been trained in the evaluation of evidence.

We’ve been asked many times to display some kind of performance chart or report card about how various news organizations have done in our 5+ years.  We’re still working to improve this, but we’re pleased to offer some public dynamic data reporting for the first time – on the 20 news organizations that we regularly monitor.

Please note:  At various times over the past 5+ years we’ve monitored many different news organizations.  For example, we stopped reviewing network TV health news regularly after 228 stories.  Also note: we can only review what we find online and some news organizations don’t make it very easy to find their health care news online, so although we look every day, we sometimes don’t find anything.  That’s why, for example, the Arizona Republic and the Dallas Morning News have only had one story reviewed.  And remember:  we only review stories that include claims about treatments, tests, products or procedures.  That’s not all health care stories – but it’s a big chunk of them. So here’s an overall performance chart.  You can also look up any of the currently-regularly-reviewed 20 news organizations individually.

News organizations’ overall grades

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New name

We’ve also changed the name of our blog. The old name – “Gary Schwitzer’s HealthNewsReview blog” – may have contributed to that misunderstanding we think some visitors had that this site was just published by me.

Having the name “HealthNewsReview” in the blog title may have also led to people to miss the fact that the systematic, criteria-driven, multiple-team-member story reviews were different than the blog posts which are often more subjective, opinionated perspective pieces.

Given all of this, and given the fact that I’ve commonly been referred to in stories written by others as “a health news watchdog,” we’ve decided to adopt that name.  So the new blog name is Health News Watchdog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite all of these changes, the work remains the same: trying to improve the flow of accurate, balanced, complete and unbiased information to health care consumers so that they can make better, more informed decisions.  That’s why the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making has supported this project for the past 6 years –  for which we’re very thankful.

I also want to thank the Minneapolis agency Ackmann & Dickenson, which worked with me carefully and patiently over several months to plan, design and execute this transition and the launch of the new site.

You can send feedback to: feedback@healthnewsreview.org or use the Contact Us form.

We’re on Twitter at @garyschwitzer and/or @HealthNewsRevu.

 ***

• In the next Croakey post, Media Doctor Australia puts out a call for help in the face of an uncertain future.