Doc talks concerns about medical headlines, has advice for readers

Coronavirus

Dr. Corey Fish urges people to read an entire article, not just the headline or the first few paragraphs

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In 2018, the satirical news site the Science Post published a block of “lorem ipsum” text under a startling headline: “Study: 70% of Facebook users only read the headline of science stories before commenting.”

Since then, more than 190,000 people shared the post, some of them quite sincerely — a coincidental example underscoring the truth in it.

Although funny, the satirical headline is validated by research. According to a study by computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute, 59% of links shared on social media, like Twitter, have never actually been clicked: in other words, most people appear to retweet news without ever reading it.

This lack of reading was also confirmed by the American Press Institutes’ findings, where only four in 10 Americans said they read past headlines — meaning it’s a miracle if you’ve come this far. But most likely, six out of 10 readers will share this article without even getting to this point because even if people click on web articles, they spend an average of 15 seconds on the page.

After a year where medical headlines have dominated the news, a local doctor is bringing up an issue he’s noticed from readers and news reporting. As a doctor in the medical field, he subscribes to and has a keen eye for medical headlines and news.

During the pandemic, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Corey Fish of Brave Care has noticed an increasingly worrisome number of attention-grabbing or misleading headlines all across various media outlets. He gets alarmed by the news headlines, but once he reads the articles, the full story and true picture comes together — and what he thought was going to be bad news, would even sometimes be good news.

“My biggest concern is that people are going to take that information — that limited information — and base their decisions off of it [and] spread that information amongst their family and friends and peer groups,” Dr. Fish said. “Then you have this kind of runaway phenomenon that’s really not rooted in the whole factual story.”

With the knowledge of reader’s behaviors and the fact that news outlets are limited to a certain number of words for a headline, he says it’s imperative that two things happen.

First, readers must take more responsibility for reading an article in its entirety before forming an opinion or sharing it. Headlines are never going to summarize an entire story. Second, news outlets need to be more mindful of the truest key takeaway of a report — to craft a more helpful headline, not the most clickable.

Ultimately, Dr. Fish underscores the importance of making sure you have the full context of a report — in order to help you make the best decision.

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