One of my pet peeves in the medical and health news is the tendency of news agencies to either forget to mention the journal article they are reporting on or poorly reference them, especially if it's an early online release in Nature or New Scientist.  Good luck with finding a link to the paper!  All too often, I and others have wasted fruitless hours looking for a needle in a haystack.  The other week was a classic case in point – several of us were interested in a particular news item that referred to some age and genetics data, yet none of us could find the article, even a librarian with excellent resources at their disposal!  Sometimes I just write to the author and request a reprint, it's much easier and albeit not quicker, although you still need to find the online reference in order to blog about it.  Not everyone will respond to this approach, however, but generally I find most scientists pleased as punch that someone was interested in their particular research and helpful with answering questions.

Why are editors so lazy they can't be bothered to link to the actual article or abstract for those of us wanting to see the data for ourselves?  The issue is that the actual reporting is, well, perhaps a bit sensationalised and more 'promising' than the actual authors suggested.  Cancer drugs are a classic one in this case, especially vaccines in advanced stage disease, which are most unlikely to offer 'potential cure', 'hope' or 'promise' of any description for the majority of patients.  The reporters exude an odour of snake oil salesmen when they take that route and raise false hopes for cancer patients or their carers dealing with a devastating disease.

Science is about finding truth and facts, not sensationalising or hyping the information into some spin or story.

So, if there are any editors out there, please think of the readers and provide a more useful service by linking to the article or abstract.  You will be doing all of us a great favour if you do.

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