One of the most challenging aspects of writing about gun violence is finding good data. The CDC has reliable statistics on gun deaths, including accidents, suicides and homicides, but it’s historically been more difficult to find data on gun injuries or more detailed epidemiology.
When journalist Ted Alcorn visited an alcohol detox center in Gallup, New Mexico, he had little idea his reporting on the impact of alcohol on his state would grow into a multi-part, 21,000-words-and-growing series digging into why New Mexico residents die from drinking at much higher rates than those in other states. Alcorn’s remarkable package, Blind Drunk, was published by New Mexico In Depth in July 2022. Alcorn is an AHCJ Health Care Performance fellow and covered this story as a part of the fellowship program.
A reporter with credits at The New York Times and other national publications who also lectures at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service, Alcorn shared with AHCJ how his project came about and how he waded through the enormous amount of research that went into it.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.
If reporters covered gun violence with greater empathy and context — including telling the story from the victims’ perspectives — instead of doing the more typical episodic reporting, it could reduce psychological harms of and potentially affect the prevalence of gun violence, said Jessica Beard, M.D., M.P.H., a trauma surgeon at Temple University Hospital.
The number of promotional adjectives used to hype proposed research has increased by more than 1300% in successful grant applications to the National Institutes of Health over the past three and a half decades, particularly in hyping the importance and novelty of research, according to a recent study in JAMA Network Open.
The use of “spin,” the authors wrote,” has the potential to undermine the fidelity of scientific reporting,” but the identification of spin in the peer review process is problematic, they add.
Journalists who covered medical research during the pandemic know how helpful it was that nearly all COVID-related studies were freely available upon publication. But those who have covered medical research for years also know how unusual that is.
Using medical research in journalism has long involved finding ways past paywalls for journal articles, whether it was accessed through press registration, reaching out to authors, contacting journal publishers, befriending folks with institutional logins or tapping unsanctioned repositories like Sci-Hub.