The challenges for scientific journals at the beginning of 21st century are exciting but formidable. In addition to reporting faithfully new knowledge and new ideas, each journal, or at least all those aiming for a general readership, has to cater for a potentially huge lay readership waiting at the internet portals, a hungry press eager for juicy titbits, and core readers who, while impressed to some extent by weighty contributions to knowledge, are also looking for lighter material that is both informative and entertaining. In the past this type of content was frowned on as mere journalism, fluff of short-term appeal but no real substance. The lighter approach was pioneered by Michael O'Donnell as editor of World Medicine in the 1970s, who introduced a brand of racy articles, debates and controversial issues in a tone of amusing and irreverent iconoclasm. At this time it was dismissed as a comic by some of the learned journals but its popularity ensured that in subsequent years its critics quietly followed suit, as any current reader of the British Medical Journal and the Lancet will testify.