WebMD: A Warning!
In my "Quick Review of Helpful Articles" piece this issue, I was going to offer several links to articles at WebMD. Before publishing though, I decided to email the authors of those articles and let them know that I didn't like what they had to say on WebMD and was going to let my readers know that. To my shock, I heard back that the authors themselves didn't like what WebMD was offering. It seems that much of the information I was referencing on WebMD was very old AND stolen to boot! I heard back from authors telling me that the information was outdated and not something that they would ever offer today themselves. I was told that the material I had referenced on the WebMD site was in fact stolen, no rights ever paid for, and copyright laws broken.
Besides the fact that this revelation bugs me as a writer-- I hate hearing that someone's work was stolen-- this revelation was also ALARMING! WebMD put a lot of cash into their branding and marketing-- too bad they didn't spend it on providing reliable material and information instead by buying reprint rights of current materials and information. In spite of the lack of reliable information, the internet audience has come to know the WebMD name and website through marketing dollars spent, and readers go there expecting reliable information.
Well, I'm telling you now don't expect reliable information anymore! Even if they have the highest marketing profile as a medical information site, do not make the mistake of equating marketing dollars spent with the level of quality! In fact, I further suggest that we all boycott the WebMD site at all costs! At the very least, question anything you see there. Do the authors a favor when you read their work there, too. Email them, find them by any means necessary, and tell them that their work is on WebMD. Ask if they knew that. Ask if the information there was stolen. Ask if the information is old and unreliable at this point.
If you are a medical writer yourself, go to WebMD and do a search for your name to see if they've stolen any of your work. If so, let your publisher know. Get the legal team involved. Demand that WebMD answer for putting the health and knowledge of readers at risk! Don't let them get away with this.