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Health News Thermometer

Although there is some excellent science reporting, there are also examples of sensationalist, inaccurate and scaremongering journalism. The aim of this project is to identify the worst offenders in order to inform and warn the public… and ideally drive up standards.


In light of the recent measles epidemic in South Wales, which was largely caused by poor journalism over the last fifteen years, this year’s project will focus on health coverage in the national press from 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014, including news, features and columnists, etc.

We will be identifying articles that are seriously inaccurate, seriously scaremongering, seriously harmful, or seriously misleading. At the end of the project, in spring 2014, we will recognise the newspapers that published the most and worst such articles, with separate recognition for the weekday papers, the Sunday papers, the broadsheets and the tabloids. We will also recognise the paper that offered the most responsible and accurate health reporting.

How can you help?

Finding articles

Although Good Thinking will be scanning the papers every day, you can also nominate articles from now on (or dating back to 1 April 2013) by emailing news AT goodthinkingsociety DOT org. You will find a list of the papers being assessed below.

We have already described the sort of journalism that we are looking for, but another way to think about how to identify relevant articles is to ask whether readers would have been worse off after reading a particular article. Did readers gather inaccurate information? Would they been unduly worried? Would they have been tempted to try an unproven or dangerous treatment? Would they have been discouraged from trying an evidence-based treatment?

Evaluating articles

Once an item has been flagged up, we will circulate it to two or more PhD students or postdocs who have the expertise to evaluate the scientific content. Visit the evaluator page to find out more and to nominate yourself. We already have a backlog of articles to be evaluated, so please join us if you feel you have the expertise.[CSSBUTTON target=”http://goodthinkingsociety.org/news-evaluators/” color=”#2E86C5″ float=”left”]Sign Up to Evaluate[/CSSBUTTON]

Comments from evaluators will be considered by the final judging panel, which consists of Professor Edzard Ernst, Dr Ben Goldacre, Dr Margaret McCartney and Simon Singh.

Finding a name for the project?

We are not sure whether to call this project the Bad News Awards for Health Coverage; the Flat Earth Awards for Health Journalism or the Health News Thermometer. What do you think? Can you think of something better? Please email us at news AT goodthinkingsociety DOT org.

The Newspapers:

  • The Times
  • The Telegraph
  • Financial Times
  • The Guardian
  • The Independent
  • The Mail
  • The Express
  • The Sun
  • The Mirror
  • The Star
  • The Sunday Times
  • The Sunday Telegraph
  • The Observer
  • Independent on Sunday
  • The Mail on Sunday
  • The Sunday Express
  • The Sun on Sunday
  • The Sunday People

Report It!

Make sure the Favourites / Bookmarks bar is visible on your  browser. Left click, hold, and drag this Report It button to your Favourites / Bookmarks bar. Click that button when you wish to report a web page.

Bad News Evaluators – Register Here

The plan is that articles that are picked by our bad news radar will be emailed to our PhD/postdoc evaluators. This means that you will hear from us about once per week. As soon as three evaluators have volunteered to examine the article and provide a 100 word report, then everyone else will be notified …

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