Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Merry Christmas?

No I didn't forget it was last week. I wanted to point out there is a tradition of jollity in the world of medical news that is in danger of being fractured by the advent of e-publishing.

The way it worked was this. The press releases for each week's British Medical Journal and Lancet would be issued, embargoed, for publication every Friday. It meant that both eminent journals released their Christmas issues the Friday before Christmas - and the Christmas issue was traditionally pretty wacky.

Over the last year the embargoed Friday press releases have all but ceased. Articles are published on the internet first. Embargoes are enforced but they can be any day of the week.

This year's Christmas British Medical Journal stories were released on Thursday 18th and they were certainly a crazy mixture. We headed the story Head-bangers, texting, Twist and Slam.There was a second one about common medical myths. It is true that some of the reports contain a germ of seriousness - but it was interesting that so far ahead of Christmas a number of reporters seemed to report some of these items with po-faced seriousness.

And of course the Lancet did not come out the same day. In fact it does not seem to have had a comparable collection of stories - although a series of reports trickled out. There was the one about the woman who fainted after eating sandwiches. And another one about sneezing emerged so late that we did not bother to report it.