Author Archives: Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Join our updated workshop on medical studies at #ahcj19 — covering the basics plus policy and, yes, biostats-made-easy

If you are joining us for Health Journalism 2019 in Baltimore in a few weeks, be sure to arrive in time to attend the Thursday morning workshop on reporting on medical studies.

For those not attending any field trips, you have the opportunity to come and hear from two new speakers this year who will expand our discussion of medical research coverage to cost effectiveness, policy and patient-centered outcomes studies, plus some extra diving into understanding those intimidating biostats in studies! Continue reading

Are you battle-ready? Let’s share strategies at AHCJ 2019 for social media finesse in an age of ‘alternative facts’

Brian Southwell

You’ve laced up your combat boots and fastened your helmet. Your Kevlar vest is safely snug against your chest. Your emergency first aid kit is nearby, with a couple different sedatives and anti-anxiety meds, potable alcohol, and multiple tissue boxes. You are ready to go on Twitter. Let the battle begin.

While yes, I jest, it’s no joke that the divisiveness and flood of falsehoods on Twitter can be maddening and even emotionally (not to mention cognitively) exhausting. You could spend 24-7 on Twitter correcting misconceptions, exaggerations and flat-out lies and make less impact than a drop of water on a wildfire. And that’s while pretending that Facebook, Pinterest and other sites don’t exist. Continue reading

Writing about vaccine hesitancy? There’s a study for that

Photo: Global Panorama via Flickr

Vaccines and vaccine hesitancy has been my primary micro-beat since I began working as a full-time health/science journalist, so it’s been interesting to watch how coverage of the topic has evolved over the past decade.

For far too long, false balance was the biggest problem plaguing media coverage of vaccination, a trend that only slowly began fading after The Lancet retracted Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent study. Continue reading

‘Sexology’ fraud duped dozens of reporters — don’t be among them next time

Photo: Nic Price via Flickr

We journalists rely on many tools in our trade: research articles, books, interviews, pen and paper, accumulated knowledge and experience, PR folks, smartphones, software, voice recorders, cameras, etc. But every once in a while, one tool outperforms the rest: our Spidey sense.

I can’t count the times my intuition has nudged me in the right direction or diverted me from the wrong one, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an experienced reporter who would say otherwise. Continue reading

A good story about medical studies begins with a responsible headline

Photo: Sergio Santos via Flickr

Many journalists have little to do with the final headline that ends up on their story, while others — such as bloggers and regular contributors to certain publications — are almost exclusively responsible for their headlines.

But even in the first case, journalists may submit a working headline with their story and often have some sway over the final headline. Continue reading

Breakthrough research reveals parachutes don’t prevent death when jumping from a plane

Photo: David Stillman via Flickr

It’s been 15 years since BMJ published the most rigorous type of study there is — a systematic review of randomized controlled trials — to assess the evidence for using a parachute to prevent death and major injury when jumping from a plane. RCTs are considered the gold standard in research, and systematic reviews claim the top spot of the evidence pyramid.

As those familiar with this now-famous study know, the authors of that 2003 Christmas issue study found no RCTs testing of the safety of jumping from an airplane with a parachute. Continue reading