The February 3, 1999, issue of JAMA features an editorial that reappears in the March 8, 1999, issue of the ARCHIVES, in which the editors of JAMA and the ARCHIVES journals make the case for editorial independence.
Even though most readers of both journals readily find themselves staunchly supportive of editorial freedom, not enough has been said about the parallel concepts of editorial balance, appropriateness, and proper restraint. Surely the various ARCHIVES journals editors are not arguing for total, unlimited editorial freedom and independence without regard to related issues, such as the needs and desires of readers. We all have many areas of interest other than medicine; but I, for one, would object to JAMA devoting space and time to basketball scores, since that information comes to me from dozens of other sources and has nothing to do with my reasons for reading that publication. I strongly suspect that many (maybe most) physicians strongly prefer that JAMA and the ARCHIVES journals concentrate their efforts in the area of sound medical science, the social issues connected to our profession, and/or the economics of medicine. Politics aside, I have honest doubts about the value of a study that does nothing more than report the opinions of 599 Midwestern college students on the topic of oral sex.1 Worthy scientific articles are kept on the shelf for months, waiting their turn to get into print. Doesn't the preciousness of journal space commend itself to more meaningful inquiries?