Context: Scientific journals issue press releases to disseminate scientific news about articles they publish.
Objective: To assess whether press releases about journal articles were associated with publication of subsequent newspaper stories.
Design: Retrospective content analysis of newspaper stories, journal press releases, and journal tables of contents. From December 1, 1996, to February 28, 1997, press releases and tables of contents were collected from BMJ, Nature, Science, and The Lancet, along with newspaper stories on scientific research published in The New York Times (United States), Le Figaro and Le Monde (France), El País and La Vanguardia (Spain), La Repubblica (Italy), and the International Herald Tribune.
Main outcome measurements: Number of newspaper stories that contained reference to articles appearing in the 4 scientific journals, number of newspaper stories that referred to journal articles described in press releases, and the order in which journal articles were mentioned in press releases.
Results: Of the 1060 newspaper stories analyzed, 142 referred to journal articles; of these, 119 (84%) referred to articles mentioned in press releases and 23 (16%) referred to journal articles not mentioned in press releases (comparison of proportions, P=.03). Articles described first or second were referenced in more newspapers than articles described later in the press release (P=.01 by chi2 analysis).
Conclusions: Journal articles described in press releases, in particular those described first or second in the press release, are associated with the subsequent publication of newspaper stories on the same topic.