New England Journal of Medicine, seeking new editor, was urged to get woke

Or something. Back in October 2018, the oldest and one of the most prestigious medical journals was looking for a new editor-in-chief sometime within the next year, as the current one announced that he was planning to retire. The journal has received, as one might expect, a lot of advice, including

Dr. Richard Smith, former editor of the BMJ, offered this advice: Change the raison d’etre… Looking ahead, Smith said, as science moves away from journals as the most important medium for delivering information, the next editor of NEJM will have to adapt. “The main job of journals will not be to disseminate science but to ‘speak truth to power,’ encourage debate, campaign, investigate and agenda-set — the same job as the mass media. The NEJM needs to strengthen that side of the journal.” (Smith may have a model in mind. Fiona Godlee, the current editor of the BMJ, has called her publication an outlet for “campaigning” against what see sees as flaws in the biomedical edifice.) Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky, “At NEJM, a change at the top offers a chance to reshape the world’s oldest medical journal” at STAT

In short, Smith

1) sees mass media journalism as a “campaign” with an “agenda” Sadly, that’s true today. (Cue further mass media layoffs.) Mass media were more useful (and better read) back when they told us things that the elite of none of the parties in power wanted us to know. Now that they are so often just political operatives with bylines, it is less of a timewaster to follow the politicians directly.

and

2) He makes clear that science contributes only a little to NEJM’s perspective in the pursuit of that goal.

Something like this has happened to The Lancet too.

Overall, we’re gonna hear some remarkable stuff touted as medicine in years to come. We may end up supplementing “Get woke, go broke” with “Doctor woke? You’re  gonna croak!”

As always, we shall see.

See also: Lancet: Why has a historic medical publication gone weird?

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