Ind. station runs ‘canned’ story about Fla. boy

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 AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Jeremy Cox, medical reporter for the Jacksonville (Fla.) Times-Union, calls our attention to a television report about a boy who suffered a stroke and needed a rare surgery to save his life.

The report, which aired Thursday on WNDU-South Bend, Ind., was produced by Ivanhoe Broadcast News, a media company based in the Orlando, Fla., area.

Cox reports that the story, as aired on WNDU, “features the station’s health logo, ‘Maureen’s Medical Moment,’ along with an introduction and voice-over by the reporter Maureen McFadden.”

Critics have raised questions about these so-called “canned” reports in the past, as Cox points out:

Eric Deggans, the television and media critic for the St. Petersburg Times, asked a poignant question about health journalism a couple years ago. Two, actually.

“As a TV viewer, how do you know when reporters are presenting their own work? And does it matter if the format subtly encourages the audience to think a journalist has done work he has not?” he inquired.

Those questions topped a column about local television news reporters’ habit of presenting health stories produced by someone else as their own work. Without giving credit to that “someone else.”

In a 2009 blog post, Gary Schwitzer, an AHCJ member and publisher of HealthNewsReview.org, says that often stories produced in this way are “almost always about a single idea with one spokesman touting it.”

Certainly stories with a single source that lack independent analysis do not meet the standards set forth in AHCJ’s statement of principles, which calls for vigilance in selecting sources, recognition that most stories involve a degree of nuance and complexity that no single source could provide and seek out independent experts.

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