08 February 2012

Media Muddle: The Diet and the Doctor...

I'll start with I'm a transit commuter.  This is important because it means I have about 4 hours every day (yes 4!) sitting on a train with nothing better to do than to daydream of grandeur or do what every living Librarian does: read.  While I used to grab one of those free morning papers everyday, I've stopped for two reasons. Number one, because although I am fully capable of making spelling and grammatical errors (and do), I have very little tolerance for the plethora of errors littering these papers that have qualified editors on staff.  Number 2 because this year I've decided to de-stress a bit and I've pinpointed the never-ending 'bad' news I was reading day in and day out to be causing me some form of anxiety.   It's not an easy thing for an information professional to read something without picking it apart trying to separate the high quality pieces from the naff.  Nevertheless, that critical eye is needed, and what about those who may not be so used to picking information apart?

Enter the growing amounts of health advice/studies reported in the media (a topic I've written about in previous posts).  I get asked about those studies everyday and I don't think it'll be a surprise for many to reveal (!) they're not all good.  We're told one day that drinking less coffee can avoid cardiovascular 'stress', and told the next day to drink way more than most people already do to avoid breast cancer!  It's the tale of two evils only there's too many tales with similar contradictory advice.

Now there's help from a few different places:

Media Doctor Canada is a website dedicated to improving "Canadian media coverage of new medical drugs and treatments" through the use of a standardized rating scale rated by a qualifies and professional staff.  For more visit: http://www.mediadoctor.ca/

Media Doctor Australia is the original site that Media Doctor Canada comes from.  For more visit: http://www.mediadoctor.org.au/

Health News Review is a similar site, updated more often, aimed at improving the accuracy of health news stories & helping consumers evaluate health evidence.  Evaluations are also by qualified professionals.  For more visit: http://www.healthnewsreview.org/

These sites also review the actual media outlets for their overall rating which may help in the decision of what paper to buy or what TV show to watch if you don't take my recent 'head in the sand' approach.  They try and cut to the core of what's really important: the gold nugget of health information minus the sensationalizing often 'bad' news or endlessly conflicting headlines.  So while I'm on a newsprint diet for 2012 so far I still can't help gobbling up the good 'healthy' news these sites offer. Whether it be this choice or my lessened caffeine intake I've become much less anxious on my very, very, very, long commute. :)