Background: Characteristics defining newsworthiness of journal articles appearing in JAMA and NEJM were examined to determine if they affect visibility in the news media. It was also hypothesized that press releases affected the amount of news coverage of a journal article due to the fact that the most newsworthy journal articles are selected for press releases.
Methods: Journal articles (N = 95) were coded for characteristics believed to describe the "newsworthiness" of journal articles. Quantity of news coverage of the journal articles was estimated using the LEXIS-NEXIS database. Bivariate associations were examined using one-way analysis of variance, and multivariate analyses utilized OLS regression.
Results: Characteristics of the newsworthiness of medical journal articles predicted their visibility in newspapers. The issuing of press releases also predicted newspaper coverage. However, press releases predicted newspaper coverage largely because more newsworthy journal articles had accompanying press releases rather than because the press release itself was influential.
Conclusions: Journalists report on medical information that is topical, stratifies risk based on demographic and lifestyle variables, and has lifestyle rather than medical implications. Medical journals issue press releases for articles that possess the characteristics journalists are looking for, thereby further highlighting their importance.