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[Ed. note: Gary Schwitzer is the publisher, chief cook, and bottle washer at HealthNewsReview.org, which evaluates health news reporting, marketing, and public relations according to how accurately they inform the public. This post was submitted as a comment to my post yesterday, "...

[Ed. note: Gary Schwitzer is the publisher, chief cook, and bottle washer at HealthNewsReview.org, which evaluates health news reporting, marketing, and public relations according to how accurately they inform the public. This post was submitted as a comment to my post yesterday, "Why medical writers are smarter than business reporters," which I drew from Schwitzer's reporting. I thought this comment was important enough to pull out as a separate post, especially because of the rich links that Schwitzer provides.--Paul Raeburn.]

I've been writing about the apparent different standard for business health stories for years; this Pfizer episode is just the latest in a litany of less than optimal business health stories. Other examples:

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A good way to establish the credibility of an online news startup is to hire somebody with a solid journalism reputation--somebody like Bill Keller, a former executive editor of The New York Times who now holds the prestigious post of Op-Ed columnist. But Keller, perched in his...

A good way to establish the credibility of an online news startup is to hire somebody with a solid journalism reputation--somebody like Bill Keller, a former executive editor of The New York Times who now holds the prestigious post of Op-Ed columnist. But Keller, perched in his chair in the Times tower, would never do it, right?

Wrong. Keller has just signed on as the first editor-in-chief at the Marshall Project, a news startup devoted to coverage of the U.S. criminal justice system.

The Marshall Project, which plans to launch in the middle of this year, was established by Neil Barsky, a former reporter for the New York Daily News and The Wall Street Journal and co-founder of the hedge fund Midtown Capital, according to his Marshall Project bio.

The hiring of Keller gives the site instant visibility and...

[Thanks to Gary Schwitzer of HealthNewsReview.org for alerting me to this. See his post here. Also, see his guest post ...

[Thanks to Gary Schwitzer of HealthNewsReview.org for alerting me to this. See his post here. Also, see his guest post responding to this one.]

 

Did you hear the one about Pfizer's new drug for advanced breast cancer?

It goes something like this: A new Pfizer drug combined with an existing cancer drug "achieved its primary endpoint by demonstrating a statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvement in progression-free survival" in certain cases of advanced or metastatic breast cancer. "We are delighted with the final data, which suggest the potential for palbociclib to transform the standard of care for post-menopausal women with ER+ and HER2- advanced breast cancer," a Pfizer vice president said in a company...

Is sugar toxic? To lose weight, do we reduce the carbs in our diet, or the fat? Why do many people find it easy to lose weight, but nearly impossible to keep it off?

These are the some of the nutrition-related questions that the journalist Gary Taubes has addressed more assiduously than...

Is sugar toxic? To lose weight, do we reduce the carbs in our diet, or the fat? Why do many people find it easy to lose weight, but nearly impossible to keep it off?

These are the some of the nutrition-related questions that the journalist Gary Taubes has addressed more assiduously than probably any other science reporter in the country in recent years. On Sunday, in a piece in the Sunday Review section of The New York Times, he gives us the answers to these and similar questions. But not the answers we might like.

The answer to many of these questions, Taubes writes, is: We don't know. That's despite what he says are more than 600,000 articles on obesity or diabetes (a frequent consequence of obesity). Taubes:

Because...

   A long piece - on a long-running war between a feisty Harvard-educated (undergrad), UC Berkeley PhD and now-tenured biology professor with an interest in endocrinology and a huge corporation with huge profits at stake - has gotten a tremendous reaction over the last day or two:

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   A long piece - on a long-running war between a feisty Harvard-educated (undergrad), UC Berkeley PhD and now-tenured biology professor with an interest in endocrinology and a huge corporation with huge profits at stake - has gotten a tremendous reaction over the last day or two:

   It is an engrossing yet puzzling piece. Its prime character, Tyrone Hayes, especially around here (The SF Bay Area), has been a science story for at least ten years. Many readers of the tracker likely have at least an inkling why. He has become a deep thorn in the side of Syngenta, a Swiss-based herbicide and pesticide manufacturer that is the descendant,  by...

The front page of The New York Times on Monday carried a story by Gina Kolata that told a compelling tale of a woman with a deadly genetic disease...

The front page of The New York Times on Monday carried a story by Gina Kolata that told a compelling tale of a woman with a deadly genetic disease who was able to have children knowing they did not carry the lethal gene. The children were conceived through in-vitro fertilization and tested for the gene before unaffected embryos were implanted.

This is not a new development. The idea of testing embryos for genetic diseases before implantation has been around for more than 20 years. Yet the Times put it on the front page.

The only explanation I can think of is that Kolata's evocative writing seduced her editors into thinking it was a new story. She followed a heartwarming lead anecdote with the Big Questions. The procedure, she...

Can she cure what ails science?
Faye Flam
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A recent piece from The New York Times “Grey Matter” column in the Sunday Review continues what seems to be a trend toward suggesting science doesn’t work or is somehow malfunctioning.

The...

A recent piece from The New York Times “Grey Matter” column in the Sunday Review continues what seems to be a trend toward suggesting science doesn’t work or is somehow malfunctioning.

The author of this latest piece is political scientist Michael Suk-Young Chwe, and the headline, Scientific Pride and Prejudice.

Here’s the lede:

Science is in crisis, just when we need it most.

It’s a good hook, but is it true?

To back up this alarming claim, we get this link to a Nature paper. The paper says that in cancer drug development, too many researchers are jumping ahead into clinical studies before the pre-...

  Here is a headline that is a big fat fib:

  Here is a headline that is a big fat fib:

  •  InsideClimate News - John H. Cushman Jr.: How to Deconstruct the Difficult Math of Keystone XL's Carbon Footprint ;    This is misleading because it implies it will lead to the answer. However, not to worry, that's ok. It is a story about the math itself, not the automatically fuzzy answer that one gets from that math. And the story may be as good as it is going to get in terms of explaining a pipeline's footprint - which is its point. 

  This yarn is for anybody deeply interested in the geochemical stakes and consequences of a decision pro or con at the White House on whether to finish a near-straight shot hose of heavy crude oil from the Athabasca tar sands of Alberta right into the vast complex of refineries along the Gulf Coast...

For more than 20 years, we have been hearing charges and counter-charges concerning alleged sexual abuse by Woody Allen of Dylan Farrow, a daughter he adopted with Mia Farrow. Dylan, now 28, is an artist and writer living in Florida under a different name.

The charges were never resolved. But now Allen has...

For more than 20 years, we have been hearing charges and counter-charges concerning alleged sexual abuse by Woody Allen of Dylan Farrow, a daughter he adopted with Mia Farrow. Dylan, now 28, is an artist and writer living in Florida under a different name.

The charges were never resolved. But now Allen has been effectively accused of child abuse again in the pages of The New York Times, in a harsh and deeply misguided column by Nicholas Kristof, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner known for his support of human rights and children in such dangerous places as Chad and Darfur.

On Feb. 1, with no more legal evidence than what was available 20 years ago, Kristof wrote in his column, "When evidence is ambiguous, do we really need to leap to our feet and lionize an alleged molester?" The column was prompted...

Guest post by Maia Szalavitz: What Journalists Can Do to Fight Opioid Addiction
Paul Raeburn
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[Ed. note: Maia Szalavitz is a health writer at TIME.com who regularly writes about drug addiction. She is also the co-author, with Bruce Perry, MD, PhD, of "Born for Love:  Why Empathy is Essential-- And Endangered" and the author of "Help At Any Cost:  How the Troubled-Teen Industry...

[Ed. note: Maia Szalavitz is a health writer at TIME.com who regularly writes about drug addiction. She is also the co-author, with Bruce Perry, MD, PhD, of "Born for Love:  Why Empathy is Essential-- And Endangered" and the author of "Help At Any Cost:  How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids."]

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s overdose death has hit nearly everyone affected by addiction hard, including this former heroin addict. But while I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see how good much of the coverage has been, unfortunately, journalism still has a long way to go before it can truly serve the public interest by providing accurate, fair and useful coverage of addiction and drugs.

First, the good stuff.  The New Republic,...

   Here's a story I read about five days ago and cannot get out of my mind, even though it is on a physics result that is not merely null but highly incremental, and tentative. Furthermore, even if its implications bear fruit they will have no effect on matters of policy or daily habit. That is, the...

   Here's a story I read about five days ago and cannot get out of my mind, even though it is on a physics result that is not merely null but highly incremental, and tentative. Furthermore, even if its implications bear fruit they will have no effect on matters of policy or daily habit. That is, the news can have no practical impact other than to encourage support for or perhaps participation in the arcane arts and hence build upon their splendid intellectual achievements. But a lot of science writers get by in large measure on just such stories. They are interesting to a few for whom such news is very interesting indeed.

   The news peg is a report in Physical Review Letters...

How good must heroin feel? Good enough to abandon three children? Good enough to abandon friends, other family members, professional colleagues, and a brilliant career?

I should be angry at Philip Seymour Hoffman for doing what he's done to his children. But I'm not. I'm just sad. He was one of...

How good must heroin feel? Good enough to abandon three children? Good enough to abandon friends, other family members, professional colleagues, and a brilliant career?

I should be angry at Philip Seymour Hoffman for doing what he's done to his children. But I'm not. I'm just sad. He was one of my favorite actors, somebody I thought of as a personal favorite. It wasn't until he died that I discovered he was everybody's favorite.

Now I'm sorry that I never saw him onstage. I'm sorry that he won't make the movies he could have continued to make for years to come. Mostly I'm moved by the pain that Hoffman must have experienced--the craving, the attempts to fight it, failing again and again. I'm sad that he chose to experience heroin rather than to experience all the things he will now miss, including watching his children grow up, and performing.

What makes somebody do that? Are we all walking the same razor's edge, only...

  If you look at the website of Rolling Stone Magazine it looks almost as though it is about nothing but brash movies and music. But as regular readers know its political coverage is serious. Politics controls energy policy. Energy use effects climate. And every once...

  If you look at the website of Rolling Stone Magazine it looks almost as though it is about nothing but brash movies and music. But as regular readers know its political coverage is serious. Politics controls energy policy. Energy use effects climate. And every once in a while the magazine slaps one awake with a big, disturbing story on climate change. A year and a half ago, for example, Bill McKibben's story "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math" shook up a lot of people, including me for sure. Not that it was entirely new. But its emphatic use of numbers to dramatize the power of the fossil fuel industry was depressingly effective at saying we're screwed.

   Now we have another in the same dark genre, another example how near term economics and overwhelming industrial-political muscle...

On Jan. 19, the journal Nature published two studies (here and here) showing that it's possible to make stem cells by putting adult cells in an...

On Jan. 19, the journal Nature published two studies (here and here) showing that it's possible to make stem cells by putting adult cells in an acidic environment. That's good news. But how good? Here are my top 10 words or phrases to describe the findings:

10. The Wall Street Journal: "unexpected."

9. Nature "surprisingly simple." The New York Times: "...

New report says these butterflies may soon stop migrating
Faye Flam
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Every autumn, millions of monarch butterflies have taken off from diverse points in the U.S. and Canada and flown thousands of miles to converge on a place they’ve never seen before - a forest west of Mexico City. With brains the size of pinheads and bodies easily buffeted by the wind, these insects carry out...

Every autumn, millions of monarch butterflies have taken off from diverse points in the U.S. and Canada and flown thousands of miles to converge on a place they’ve never seen before - a forest west of Mexico City. With brains the size of pinheads and bodies easily buffeted by the wind, these insects carry out the navigational feat with internal clocks and compasses scientists have just begun to understand.

A few years ago, scientists sounded the alarm that illegal logging in those Mexican forests threatened to destroy the migration pattern forever. And now, according to a new report by U.S. and Mexican environmental groups, the Mexicans have done their part to crack down on logging, but human activity in the U.S. is causing a precipitous decline in migrating butterflies.

The news stories that followed say the report cites multiple causes, including the loss of the milkweed on which the butterflies depend as it’s replaced with rows of corn. The milkweed no...

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