May 2, 2009

Citizen scientists

Science blogger Peter Lipson and others have launched a campaign to debunk many of the claims made in health-related articles posted in Huffington Post's "Living" section. The website's "wellness" editor Patricia Fitzgerald also comes under critcism for exaggerting her medical qualifications, as well as the qualifications of others who post there. Simon Owens at Bloggasm has the story:
“Part of it is a misrepresentation of qualifications,” Lipson told me in a phone conversation. “They started putting the word ‘Dr’ in front of everyone’s name — more or less for anyone who has a doctorate in something or other — and Patricia Fitzgerald claims to have a doctorate in homeopathy, whatever that is. Homeopathy is a completely discredited fantasy. When you give that kind of credibility — I mean first you invite them to a well-known mainstream outlet, you let them call themselves a doctor when they’re not really qualified, and then you let them interview other people and present them as professionals — it just layers on and layers on.”

It would be different if they admitted up front that these stories were all editorial in nature, the internist said, and presented them as such. He compared the method of fact checking in the health section of HuffPo to that of the Gray Lady. “They need to exercise some kind of journalistic integrity,” Lipson said. “When you read the New York Times, whether you agree with what they do or not — people can argue about the quality having gone down — but when you read the editorial pages and you read the news, you know there’s some editing going on. You know they don’t just say, ‘write whatever you want and we’ll throw our name above it.’ They have real editors.”

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