Tag Archives: oransky

New AHCJ board seated for 2012-13

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Scott Hensley, NPR’s Shots blog writer and editor, joins five incumbents in being seated on the Association of Health Care Journalists’ 2012-13 board of directors.

Scott Hensley
Scott Hensley

Incumbents starting a new two-year term include AHCJ Secretary Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News; AHCJ Treasurer Ivan Oransky, M.D., Reuters Health; Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News; Andy Miller, Georgia Health News; and Irene Wielawski, independent journalist. Immediate Past President Trudy Lieberman, a longtime board member and contributing editor for Columbia Journalism Review, chose not to run for re-election.

Hensley has served on AHCJ’s membership committee since 2009 and helped refine its membership rules. Longtime Covering Health readers will remember that Hensley contributed to this blog for several months in 2009.

Before joining NPR in the summer of 2009, he was the founding editor of The Wall Street Journal‘s Health Blog after several years of print reporting for the Journal and previously a reporter at Modern Healthcare and American Banker.

The newly seated board members join those elected last year for two-year terms: AHCJ President Charles Ornstein, ProPublica; Vice President Karl Stark, The Philadelphia Inquirer; Felice Freyer, The Providence Journal; Gideon Gil, The Boston Globe; Carla K. Johnson, The Associated Press; and Maryn McKenna, independent journalist.

The Association of Health Care Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing public understanding of health care issues. Its mission is to improve the quality, accuracy and visibility of health care reporting, writing and editing. AHCJ is housed at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Where health and journalism education meet

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, and he has blogged for Covering Health ever since.

Writing for U.S. News and World Report, Menachem Wecker examines the proliferation of health-focused programs at journalism schools across the country, many of which are affiliated with medical schools and/or medical institutions, and how they may or may not benefit both journalists and health professionals.

This recent influx of programs has raised questions from journalists and doctors about the degree to which the collaborations benefit medical and journalism students. Some say that M.D.’s can help journalists better understand the health beat, while others prescribe a “healthy ignorance,” rather than medical school credentials, to reporters. Others say that aspiring physicians can improve their bedside interactions with and empathy for patients by studying journalism.

Wecker writes that while, according to AHCJ treasurer and Reuters Health executive editor Ivan Oransky, M.D., a medical degree appears to have become almost a requirement for broadcast health journalists, there are big-picture views and tools of the trade that those with an exclusively medical education may struggle with. Here, Wecker quotes former AHCJ board member Andrew Holtz, M.P.H.:

“I often compare asking a doctor about health policy to asking an auto mechanic about transportation policy. Maybe they have something useful to say, but it is generally not from what they learned in their training program,” he says.

Peter Fiske, author of the recent article “Unleash Your Inner Dummy” on the website of the journal Nature, says a reporter with less health expertise may find it easier to connect with readers despite the increasing complexity of the medical field.

And, given the difficulty of explaining health to a lay audience, the exchange goes both ways, Wecker writes. Several of his sources, journalists and medical professionals alike, suggested that it might not hurt physicians to improve their communication skills and media savvy.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed Fiske’s comments to Holtz. We apologize for the error.

Journalist compares U.K. science writers, American health reporters

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, and he has blogged for Covering Health ever since.

When the Association of British Science Writers announced the nominees for their 2011 Science Writers’ Awards, Guardian science blogger Martin Robbins noted a familiar pattern.

Of the 12 places on the shortlists for science writing, 6 went to New Scientist, 1 each to Nature and the BMJ, and 1 each to the Guardian and the Independent The final two places went to a freelancer and the website SciDev.Net. That means that newspapers combined took just two spots, while specialist science publications took eight. Meanwhile, the TV shortlist was occupied by BBC 3, BBC 4, and BBC 2, while the radio shortlist featured BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 4 again, and, yes, BBC Radio 4.

A lists of nominees from earlier in the decade reveals a similar pattern of “Near-dominance of broadcast science by the BBC, while specialist publications competing with a dwindling group of broadsheet newspapers for the literary prizes,” Robbins writes. To better understand this apparent one-sidedness, Robbins talked to ABSW chair Connie St. Louis, who suggested that U.K. newspapers have succumbed to a form of churnalism and “communication,” because they simply don’t have the resources for in-depth work like that which occurs at the BBC or the specialty outlets. Here’s St. Louis:

I have this thesis which is… science journalists have forgotten how to be journalists. They’re actually science communicators, and they go into the job and… the job was to tell you what science was doing and help you understand science, and I think that’s an incredibly important function, but don’t call yourself a science journalist if that’s what you’re doing, call yourself a science blogger, call yourself a science communicator, but if you’re going to call yourself a journalist then behave like a journalist, dig for stories, ask questions of science, ask questions of scientists, look at numbers, look at figures, and do what journalism does.

St. Louis then goes on to compare U.K. science journalism (somewhat unfavorably) to the relatively higher level of scrutiny faced by American health journalists, scrutiny brought about thanks in part to a few key thought leaders.

We’re always explaining new cures, explaining new science, but where are the guys who are really digging down, where are our Ivan Oranskys, where are our Gary Schweitzers [sic], we don’t have them. It’s all very much “here’s a new cancer drug”, and I’m not knocking that, it’s really important, but actually we’re in a very deficit model of journalism at the moment.

Related

Adding context to embargo-driven journalism

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, and he has blogged for Covering Health ever since.

Over at the Nieman Journalism Lab, Matthew Battles latches onto John Rennie’s column about the future of science journalism, then talks to Ed Yong and AHCJ’s own treasurer, Ivan Oransky, M.D., about embargoes, timelines and cutting through the noise.

Battles focuses on the effort to pursue context in a profession that is so often at the mercy of academic journals. After all, as he writes in his introduction, “The events that science journalists publish about most frequently are themselves acts of publishing: the appearance of research papers in peer-reviewed journals.” The rest of his piece will serve as a handy primer for anyone looking to understand why that particular state of affairs is so pervasive and persistent.

For AHCJ members who want to know more about responsibly covering studies and how to recognize and report the problems, limitations and backstory of a study, as well as publication biases in medical journals, be sure to see “Covering Medical Research.”

Blogger quits U.S. News, citing sponsored links

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, and he has blogged for Covering Health ever since.

Critical questions about online sponsored content, and the relationship between editorial control and hyperlinking, continue to be raised. The firewall between advertising and editorial has been eroding in some publications, and former Baltimore Sun health reporter Mary Knudson (bio) is the latest in a long line of bloggers who have drawn their own lines in the sand.

Knudson was invited to blog about heart health for U.S. News on the heels of her most recent book, “Living Well With Heart Failure, the Misnamed, Misunderstood Condition.” She quit before her first post was published. Now, she explains why.

On the PLoS Speakeasy Science blog, the veteran author and Johns Hopkins medical writing professor shares how her initial enthusiasm quickly waned when she noticed that her first post had been studded with sponsored hyperlinks.

She says the magazine informed her the sponsorships were not negotiable. The rabbit hole goes deeper (see Knudson’s post for more) but the end result was both unfortunate and predictable:

So, I said no to U.S. News & World Report because I could not accept the conditions they would force upon me as a blogger. I am a journalist. I will not fall in line and become a U.S. News Stepford wife.

I am currently setting up an independent blog HeartSense that will seek to find the truth as best I can about issues involving the heart and patient involvement and I will only create links to places I think will bring more information to readers about the topic I’m writing about. No ads will pop up at my readers.

The magazine chalks it up to experimentation.

“Like all internet publishers we are continually experimenting with different kinds of content and advertising,” U.S. News editor Brian Kelly said via e-mail. “Some work and some don’t. Healthline Navigator is a new feature that we are evaluating.”

Healthline Navigator is, of course, the product which autolinked Knudson’s post.

Where will it end? Knudson, for her part, calls for an independent national network. She has approached AHCJ about creating a national network for health bloggers.

AHCJ board member Ivan Oransky says AHCJ has been studying the possibility.

“We’ve watched with interest the proliferation of science blogging networks, and we appreciate Mary’s suggestion, which was on the minds of some at AHCJ,” Oransky says. “These networks are adding and amplifying important voices. We’d love comments from members, and others, with experience creating blogging networks, or contributing to one, as we work to figure out if this is something it makes sense for the association to take on.”