Why this substack is free
Mainstream and academic publishers have well-known biases. They chase clicks, reward friends, and offer up a necessarily slanted view—although some outlets are far more slanted than others. Contrarian doctors (perhaps I am one) have gotten a lot of mileage out of attacking these biases. Yet today’s independent doctor-creators who solicit funds on Substack, Youtube, Patreon, and Twitter have become publishers in their own right—for-profit business owners who take in the subscription and ad revenue themselves. Remember that. When they criticize the media, they are the media.
This week I have a short new essay in The BMJ about the rise of “subscription science.” I hope it starts a conversation about this increasingly influential trend.
“Healthcare professionals who initially sought to change public opinion might find themselves changed in the process of acquiring an audience.”
(Denver Art Museum)
In the genre of media criticism, I also penned some reflections on Elizabeth Holmes’ attempt to bolster her otherwise tarnished reputation in a New York Times interview. As I suggested, portraying yourself as the only honest media broker is a time-honored strategy. But I am also one of those old-fashioned contrarians who believes that large financial conflicts present a particular threat to good discourse about health and medicine. That’s why this Substack is free.
Much has changed about science reporting in the years since Holmes’s disgrace. I’ve watched the media’s discussion of novel health technologies grow more nuanced and leery. Major news outlets now go out of their way to emphasize the precariousness of early study findings. I’ve been getting more calls from journalists who seek a skeptical perspective on some new lab test or scientific finding. But there are cracks in the media’s armor.
Thanks for reading,