I received a text from a friend this week with a link to an article about a new drug for COVID-19 that led to “rapid recovery” of “critically ill” patients with COVID-19. “Houston Methodist Hospital is making national headlines after doctors used a new drug to help treat critically ill COVID-19 patients,” the breathless lead began. The last paragraph included this similarly dramatic quote from the drug manufacturer’s CEO in a press release: “No other antiviral agent has demonstrated rapid recovery from viral infection and demonstrated laboratory inhibition of viral replication.”
Along with the article link, my friend had texted, “Reads like a press release.” Continue reading
Photo: iT@c via Flickr
Of all the skills needed for reporting on medical research, it’s hard to think of one more important than being able to read and understand a single medical study. That may sound obvious, but a surprising number of journalists find their way to covering research findings before they have learned how to read the research papers themselves. (I once was one of them!)
I usually give a talk reviewing the basics of this task at the AHCJ conference each year, but this year’s conference unfortunately was among the large meeting casualties of the pandemic. Regardless, learning to read scientific studies is one of those skills where you get better at it the more you try to do it yourself and the more you hear from different people about how they do it. Continue reading
In what seems to be an eternity ago, I wrote about a pair of studies on concussions for Scientific American. The 2013 piece was interesting to write because it covered two studies whose combined findings revealed as much about the gaps in concussion research as they did clinically useful findings.
A few years after that, I wrote about a panel at the 2016 Health Journalism conference on sports concussions that highlighted some of the questions journalists need to consider when writing about this often contentious research. Continue reading
Much advice has appeared in the media over the past two months about how to manage anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges during the coronavirus pandemic.
Plenty of speculation, particularly on social media, has accompanied it: Will suicide rates increase? Will adolescent suicide rates decline with increased supervision? Will prescriptions for antidepressants rise? Will this trend revolutionize telemedicine in mental health? Continue reading
At a certain point, you think you’ve seen all of those maddening, intentionally misleading Facebook math riddles. The first one I recall led to an unfriending on Facebook — and my first article for Slate. It discussed the history of “order of operations” and the ambiguities of math “language” (and amusingly led to just as much debate in the comments as on Facebook). Continue reading
It can be hard enough to keep up with the peer-reviewed research flooding out of journals related to COVID-19 and the SARS-CoV2 coronavirus. Monitoring the possibly larger flood of preprints — scientific papers made available before publication in a peer-reviewed journal — is even tougher, especially since they aren’t indexed in PubMed. Continue reading