M.D. journalist suggests guidelines for dual roles

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

Tom Linden, M.D., looks at the role of physician reporters in covering disasters, particularly in light of the Haiti earthquake which saw a number of high-profile physician reporters cover the story and render care.

As Linden points out in the Electronic News journal, the networks promoted their reporters’ medical efforts and showed them providing care. He brings up a number of relevant questions about the duties of a physician reporter, whether network s or stations should promote them providing care, privacy of patients and more.

Beyond asking questions and discussing the implications of such coverage and promotion, Linden proposes a set of guidelines “to help clarify boundaries between medical and journalistic practices.”

In short, he says it’s bad journalism and inappropriate for physician reporters to report on themselves providing care.

When physician journalists become the story, medical reporting loses its way.

Linden, a professor of medical journalism in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and director of the medical and science journalism program, is no stranger to the subject, as he has worked as a medical journalist for CNBC and local news stations.


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