Author Archives: 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.

New tip sheet helps you find the precisely right expert when you need them

I’ve written before about the importance of finding not just any expert but one with detailed expertise in the specific area you need when covering a study. In that context, it was with COVID-19, but the same holds true with any research. If you’re covering a nutrition study, calling up any nutritionist to get an outside opinion does not ensure you are getting a fully informed opinion from someone familiar with the evidence. You need a nutrition researcher who is very familiar with the specific research in the paper. Continue reading

If AstraZeneca’s vaccine is authorized, be prepared to write those explainers

AstraZeneca

Photo: Cheshire East Council via Flickr

Just a day after AstraZeneca announced long-awaited interim results from its U.S. phase 3 trial earlier this week, the company again became mired in controversy about what’s going on with its vaccine.

The trial’s Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) — a group of independent experts who monitor the safety and efficacy of a drug or intervention during a trial — sent a memo to the company and government health officials, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), contesting the company’s portrayal of its vaccine’s efficacy. Continue reading

Upcoming one-week ‘epidemiology 101’ course aimed at journalists

Epidemiology 101 for JournalistsNo matter what beats a journalist covered before 2020, nearly every one of us has had to write at least a bit about epidemiology over the past year. Some reporters were completely re-assigned to a COVID-19 beat without any previous experience in health or science journalism. Others may have already been writing about health and science but not spending much time in the areas of infectious diseases, vaccines and epidemiology. It’s been a steep and continuous learning curve for many — I’ve been covering epi for a decade and still learn something new at least once a week. Continue reading

An example of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy reporting done right

PfizerVaccine_Blog_Studies_Haelle

Photo: Self Magazine via Flickr

I’ve written previously on Covering Health about the potential harms of reporting on surveys and polls about people’s intent to get the COVID-19 vaccine. In late September, the FDA had not yet authorized any vaccines, so any poll or survey questions were theoretical. Now that vaccines are in distribution, however, does that change things?

Well, yes and no. At that time, I also wrote that vaccine hesitancy wasn’t what we needed to worry about— instead, it was access and equity. Continue reading

In memoriam: Journalists remember Sharon Begley as a giant in science journalism

Sharon Begley

Photo: Courtesy of StatSharon Begley

Sharon Begley, a science journalist who was as well known for her kindness and generosity as she was for her phenomenal reporting, passed away from lung cancer on Jan. 16. Though she was reporting for Stat at the time of her death, her career of 43 years also included work – and countless awards – while at Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal and Reuters.

Described by one previous mentee as “brilliant, kind, hilarious, wise,” Begley reported until the very end, filing her final story five days before her death, as her Stat colleague, Eric Boodman, wrote in his moving obituary of this “science writing royalty.” If there was any question how far-reaching and influential her work was, consider that among the outpouring of condolences for her passing were words from NIH Director Francis Collins, physician Atul Gawande, the research institute Fred Hutch, and the National Center for Science Education. Her words could be so enchanting one of her quotes has even been misattributed to Carl Sagan. Continue reading