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The executive editor of the Sacramento Bee, Joyce Terhaar, said today she will review how the paper's website displays and identifies press releases, and that some changes might already be in the works.

Her comments came in response to...

The executive editor of the Sacramento Bee, Joyce Terhaar, said today she will review how the paper's website displays and identifies press releases, and that some changes might already be in the works.

Her comments came in response to a Feb. 24 post on the Tracker suggesting that press releases were not always clearly identified as such and that searches of the site brought up a mix of news stories and press releases.

In an email, Terhaar said that PR Newswire has been running its releases on the Sacramento Bee's website "for as long as I can remember, though in recent years we've worked to improve the header identifying the content more clearly so readers clearly understand they are reading press releases." She said she did not know that searches would produce a mix of news stories and press releases, "and I don...

"Content partnerships have been quite the vogue lately," writes Rick Edmonds at Poynter, as he takes note of a new one between...

"Content partnerships have been quite the vogue lately," writes Rick Edmonds at Poynter, as he takes note of a new one between The Atlantic and what is probably not the first news organization that comes to mind: The Deseret News.

Edmonds writes that this would appear to be a "a long-distance odd couple — the church-owned newspaper in Salt Lake City and the venerable Boston-bred monthly, now based in Washington." An odd couple indeed. He goes on to say that the partnership makes more sense if we acknowledge an "affinity--each is recognized as a leader in digital business model transformation. New approaches to content are part of the innovation formula."

That's a bit too much jargon for me, but I think I get the point...

A study in the journal Bipolar Disorders two weeks ago found that the children of fathers 50 or older had three times the risk of having bipolar disorder compared to children of fathers 30-34 years old.

Bipolar disorder afflicts...

A study in the journal Bipolar Disorders two weeks ago found that the children of fathers 50 or older had three times the risk of having bipolar disorder compared to children of fathers 30-34 years old.

Bipolar disorder afflicts about 1 percent of the general population, so, in very rough terms, the risk of bipolar disorder in the children of these older fathers is about 3 percent.

That's about one in every school classroom with 30 kids. it sounds frightening.

But turn it around and put it this way: The children of those older fathers have a 97 percent chance of not having bipolar disorder. Suddenly the risk sounds quite different.

It's not easy to convey these risks properly to readers, and reporters often get it wrong.

In another study this week on older fathers, researchers found...

After the Tracker reported on Feb. 14 that The Washington Post was running press releases in its Health & Science section and the paper...

After the Tracker reported on Feb. 14 that The Washington Post was running press releases in its Health & Science section and the paper stopped doing it, the Columbia Journalism Review now argues that the Post's own reporting would likely be no better.

In a piece this morning in The Observatory, CJR's science section, Alexis Sobel Fitts writes that the press releases lack outside sources and "read, quite clearly, like press releases." But "it’s unclear that the in-house study coverage likely to replace it—the kind of quick articles which are often based entirely on the press release—are...

Miles O'Brien, a science and space reporter for PBS and former correspondent for CNN, lost his left arm above the elbow in emergency surgery last week, following a seemingly minor injury caused by a case of camera equipment that fell on the arm.

When O'Brien saw a...

Miles O'Brien, a science and space reporter for PBS and former correspondent for CNN, lost his left arm above the elbow in emergency surgery last week, following a seemingly minor injury caused by a case of camera equipment that fell on the arm.

When O'Brien saw a doctor on Feb. 14th--two days after the accident--the doctor recommended emergency surgery to relieve growing pressure and numbness in O'Brien's arm. "Things tanked even further once I was on the table," O'Brien wrote yesterday in a post on his personal blog. "And when I lost blood pressure during the surgery due to the complications of compartment syndrome, the doctor made a real-time call and amputated my arm just above the elbow. He later told me it all boiled down to a choice…between a life and a limb."

O'Brien wrote that he woke up to "a new reality" in the hospital...

Last summer, Robert McDaniel, a 22-year-old man who lived in a high-crime neighborhood in Chicago, received a surprise visit from Barbara West, a Chicago Police Department commander. McDaniel hadn't committed a crime. He didn't have any gun violations. But West had a folder on him. He was on a list. She...

Last summer, Robert McDaniel, a 22-year-old man who lived in a high-crime neighborhood in Chicago, received a surprise visit from Barbara West, a Chicago Police Department commander. McDaniel hadn't committed a crime. He didn't have any gun violations. But West had a folder on him. He was on a list. She knew that his best friend had been killed, and she told him that the same thing could happen to McDaniel, who had been arrested multiple times but had only one minor conviction.

That anecdote comes from a story in the Chicago Tribune last summer by Jeremy Gorner. Matt Stroud of The Verge picked it up last week...

Clostridium difficile
Paul Raeburn
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Tabitha M. Powledge of On Science Blogs is not happy with the way the FDA has handled fecal transplants, and the FDA is apparently a little unsettled...

Tabitha M. Powledge of On Science Blogs is not happy with the way the FDA has handled fecal transplants, and the FDA is apparently a little unsettled itself.

Experiments with the transfer of fecal matter from healthy people to those with infections of Clostridium difficile have proven remarkably effective at curing this difficult (as its name suggest) and often persistent infection.

Just as this was becoming apparent, however, the FDA classified human feces as a drug, meaning that anyone who wanted to experiment with transplants now had to fill out extensive paperwork. Powledge links to blog posts with various views of this tricky--and interesting--situation.

-Paul Raeburn

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[Ed. note: On Feb. 28th, the Sacramento Bee's executive editor, Joyce Terhaar, said she would review the use of press releases on the paper's website. See more here.]

 

A few weeks ago, the...

[Ed. note: On Feb. 28th, the Sacramento Bee's executive editor, Joyce Terhaar, said she would review the use of press releases on the paper's website. See more here.]

 

A few weeks ago, the blogger and author Maryn McKenna-- who covers emerging infectious diseases, among other things--was sent what looked like a story from The Sacramento Bee about a new bacterial health threat.

Except that it wasn't a Sacramento Bee story. It was a press release from PR Newswire that appeared online in the pages of the Bee.

Earlier this month, The Washington Post acknowledged that it was publishing press releases in its Health & Science section. When...

The Discovery Channel has given new meaning to the screenwriters' desperate maneuver known as jumping the shark--with an apparently faked photo of an actual extinct shark.

The evidence the image was faked comes from the...

The Discovery Channel has given new meaning to the screenwriters' desperate maneuver known as jumping the shark--with an apparently faked photo of an actual extinct shark.

The evidence the image was faked comes from the columnist George Monbiot at theguardian, who might have done something more important with today's column but couldn't have done anything more entertaining. "Did Discovery Channel fake the image in its giant shark documentary?" he asks.

"Come clean or prove me wrong," he writes.

The Discovery documentary includes this image, which Monbiot displays in his column:

...

Headline writing is an art, as I was reminded the other day by this superb example: "Shroud of Turin Formed by an Earthquake? Scientists...

Headline writing is an art, as I was reminded the other day by this superb example: "Shroud of Turin Formed by an Earthquake? Scientists Say Face of Jesus Image Caused By Neutron Emissions."

Admittedly, it doesn't make much sense. Still, you have to admire the headline writers at The Huffington Post who wrote this.

I'm not the only one who succumbed and clicked. Joel Achenbach, a science writer and blogger at The Washington Post, was also sucked "down the rabbit hole of pseudoscience and bunk" when he saw this hed.

He used the occasion to reflect on the state of science journalism, which, like the shroud...

You might think that two sweets like sugar and corn syrup would be get along well. They do the same job, more or less, and people like them.

Alas, it isn't so. Sometimes the more two parties are alike, the more they fight. And that's sadly the case here.

Last week, Eric Lipton...

You might think that two sweets like sugar and corn syrup would be get along well. They do the same job, more or less, and people like them.

Alas, it isn't so. Sometimes the more two parties are alike, the more they fight. And that's sadly the case here.

Last week, Eric Lipton wrote an illuminating story on the front page of the business section of The New York Times in which he mined documents uncovered in a federal lawsuit between the corn refinery and sugar industries. The story reports that both parties resorted to covert operations, misrepresentation of research on health risks, and enlisted academics and policy groups as allies.

The battle began with research suggesting that high-fructose corn syrup might be less healthy than sugar, Lipton reports--which the corn industry vigorously denied. The sugar and corn...

The Washington Post announced Tuesday that it will stop reprinting university and other press releases in its Health & Science section following the disclosure of the practice by the Knight Science...

The Washington Post announced Tuesday that it will stop reprinting university and other press releases in its Health & Science section following the disclosure of the practice by the Knight Science Journalism Tracker last Friday.

I received the following email today from Kristine C. Coratti, the Post's spokesperson:

Hi Paul,

Thank you for your patience!

Your post raised good questions and we are discontinuing the feature.

Thank you again,
Kris

In the post last week, I asked, "What is the Washington Post doing reprinting press releases? The Post's website groups the Health & Science Section under national news. Is the Post so strapped that it can't report its own national news, but...

[Editor's note: On Feb. 18, four days after this post was written, the Washington Post said it would stop reprinting university and other press releases in its Health & Science section.]

Did you see...

[Editor's note: On Feb. 18, four days after this post was written, the Washington Post said it would stop reprinting university and other press releases in its Health & Science section.]

Did you see the story in last Tuesday's Health & Science section of The Washington Post about how women find Tour de France leaders more attractive than the riders bringing up the rear? The study shows "that we can assess a man's endurance performance by looking at his face." And you can turn that around: "Attractive riders are,...

How often are researchers forced to abandon expensive clinical trials in cancer research?

More often than you might think. A study presented earlier this month at the Genitourinary Cancers Symposium found that one-fifth of studies of cancer clinical trials from 2005-2011 were ended prematurely for reasons...

How often are researchers forced to abandon expensive clinical trials in cancer research?

More often than you might think. A study presented earlier this month at the Genitourinary Cancers Symposium found that one-fifth of studies of cancer clinical trials from 2005-2011 were ended prematurely for reasons that had nothing to do with the effectiveness of the treatments or the health of the subjects.

That's an astonishing figure. Imagine if General Motors abandoned one-fifth of its cars before completing them, and instead tossed them on some scrap heap. Or imagine if hospitals dismissed one-fifth of their patients before completing their treatment. The cancer problem is even worse, because it affects not only the subjects thrown out, but untold numbers of others who might have benefitted from what would have been learned with completion of the trial.

"This problem has huge implications," said one of the study's authors, Kristian Stensland of the...

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...

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