A new paper, "Examining the Medical Blogosphere: An Online Survey of Medical Bloggers," published last month in the Journal of Medical Internet Research by a pair of Croatian researchers, reveals the following unsettling news about medical bloggers:
59% "often... spend extra time verifying facts"Despite those dismal numbers, the authors of the paper somehow managed to write, "Responding medical bloggers demonstrated a captivating level of adherence to best practices generally associated with journalism."
7% "often... try to obtain permission for copyrighted material
29% "often... post corrections"
Baffling. (And it's not the incorrect usage of "captivating" that's baffling, although that's also strange.)
Those figures about journalistic ethics are downright embarrassing, and the authors interpret them as encouraging. I suppose that when you're comparing that data to data for general-interest bloggers, the medical bloggers' ethics seem admirable -- but that's like saying that because Harry Truman and Richard Nixon were disliked so universally, then George W Bush, because of his slightly higher approval ratings, must a popular president. That's a variation on the logical fallacy of a false dilemma, presenting medical bloggers and general-interest bloggers as the only relevant comparators in terms of journalistic ethics, when that's certainly not the case.
Or perhaps the authors have fallen into the trap of the ad novitatem fallacy in their excitement about the promise of medical blogging, flawed though it may be.
What reasonable excuse could there be for looking at those numbers and concluding that the bloggers are following journalistic ethics's best practices?
NB: Canadian Medicine is the editors' blog of Parkhurst Exchange magazine, written by professional journalists. We verify our facts, respect copyright law and post corrections when they are warranted.