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 18 January 2018

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News

Website launched to monitor the quality of medical reporting by the media

A website recently launched in Australia is designed to address some of the concerns that many doctors and scientists may hold about the quality of medical reporting.

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The website, which can be found at www.mediadoctor.org.au has been set up by scientists from the Newcaslte Institute of Public Health in New South Wales, Australia, as a response to what they see as spin and distortion.

It evaluates media coverage of new medical treatments, with a particular aim of countering the public relation efforts that product launches are often accompanied by. Currently it only monitors the media outlets in Australia.

The website uses a three-star rating to evaluate press articles, according to criteria including how benefits, harms and costs are reported, as well as the independence of information sources, and whether there is any "disease mongering".

Its founders hope to raise awareness among journalists and media managers of weaknesses in their coverage and encourage more comprehensive reporting.

The group's spokesman, Professor David Henry, professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of Newcastle, said that unlike other services, such as Hitting the Headlines (www.nelh.nhs.uk), Media Doctor aimed to evaluate journalism rather than the evidence behind stories.

By comparing the performance of various media outlets, MediaDoctor hopes that, once enough stories are analyzed, they will be able to feed back comparative data to each outlet.

The team intends to measure the site's impact on media coverage and is keen to collaborate internationally, especially in developing countries. "We'd like a minimum consistent data set collected in each country so we can do some inter-country comparisons," said Professor Henry.

BMJ 2004; 329 (7458): 178
23 July 2004

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