Report, survey look at health care journalism

Health care journalists cited newsroom cutbacks, lack of time for research and travel and fewer opportunities for training at their news organization as factors making their jobs more challenging than ever, according to a survey released today by AHCJ and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But health journalists are a hardy bunch.

Nearly three-quarters of health journalists surveyed said the amount of coverage given to health care topics has stayed the same or increased at their news organization and two-thirds said the quality of coverage has been stable or gotten better over the past few years.

The survey also found that a significant percentage of health journalists are adopting new story-telling platforms, such as blogs, video, audio and slide shows for the Web.

The full survey and report were released at a Washington, D.C., discussion about the future of health journalism featuring a panel of experts and health journalists. A webcast of the briefing will be available later today.

Read more and see the survey and a report about the state of the health journalism industry also released today.

3 thoughts on “Report, survey look at health care journalism

  1. Gary Schwitzer

    As author of the report in question, I want to draw attention to the key data points of the survey as I saw them – since they were not mentioned in the very brief synopsis on this blog.

    • Nearly ALL survey respondents said that bottom line pressure in media organizations is seriously hurting the quality of news coverage of health care issues;

    • 88% of survey respondents think health care coverage leans too much toward short “quick hit” stories, and two-thirds (64%) say the trend toward shorter stories has gotten worse in the past few years.

    • A majority of respondents (52%) say there is too much coverage of consumer or lifestyle health, and too little of health policy (70%), health care quality (70%), and health disparities (69%).

    • Just under half (44%) of staff journalists participating in the survey say that their organization sometimes (33%) or frequently (10%) bases stories on news releases without substantial additional reporting.

    • About one in 10 staff journalists in the survey (11%) say his or her own organization sometimes or frequently allows advertisers, sales staff or sponsors to influence story selection or content and another 21% said it happens “rarely.” But that means that 32% of respondents said it DID happen in their news organizations.

    These last two data points are shocking. Basing stories on news releases without doing additional reporting and allowing advertiser/sponsor interference to influence story selection or content are major ethical breaches.

    So on the eve of what may be the most important health policy discussion in this country in 15 years, we’re covering health policy topics less frequently.

    Instead, our news organizations often cover cutesy, soft, fluffy, news you can use features – some of them based on unvetted news releases or because of advertiser/sponsor influence.

    These AHCJ member responses shouldn’t be glossed over or overlooked. They demand attention.

    Gary Schwitzer
    Associate Professor
    University of Minnesota School of Journalism
    author, “State of Health Journalism in the US” report

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