Tag Archives: experts

New BMJ resource connects health journalists to established experts

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, has been AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curated related material at healthjournalism.org. Follow her on Facebook.


Photo: Ann Larie Valentine via Flickr

The British Medical Association’s BMJ, one of the oldest and most respected family of medical journals, has launched a tool to better connect journalists with editors at The BMJ’s 70 or so journals.

The BMJ journals are peer reviewed, so there’s quality control and reliable standards at a time when non peer-reviewed and ethically questionable journals are popping up in our online searches. Continue reading

Getting past gatekeepers to cover research requires strategy

About Brenda Goodman

Brenda Goodman (@GoodmanBrenda), an Atlanta-based freelancer, is AHCJ’s topic leader on medical studies, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on medical study resources and tip sheets at brenda@healthjournalism.org.

Image by Eric Allix Rogers via flickr.

So you have a great medical study to cover – interesting topic, compelling results. All you need is an interview with the study’s authors to help bring the research home to readers.

That’s where things get tricky. The researcher you need to connect with before your oh-so-tight deadline has letters in his or her affiliation that don’t bode well for timely interviews: FDA, HHS, USDA, CMS.

Scoring an interview with a scientist who works for a government agency can be frustrating and full of dead ends. It shouldn’t be. AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee is working on improving reporters’ access to a number of government agencies.

But change is slow. And your deadlines won’t wait. What can you do today for a story that’s due tomorrow? Continue reading

Reporter’s advice can help you get past sources’ jargon

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.

Kathleen Doheny

Kathleen Doheny

If you’ve interviewed anyone with an M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H. or Sc.D. after his or her name, you know: It’s often no easy feat to get your sources to speak in everyday language.

You start off the interview asking a simple, straightforward question but get a reply that, should you actually use it verbatim, is bound to make your editor cry, at best.

Freelance journalist Kathleen Doheny has come up with some strategies to coax more usable language out of sources. Find out what the “java approach” is, ways to suggest to your source that they use more reader-friendly words and how to coach them through the interview.

AHCJ to Obama: Improve access to federal experts

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.

The Association of Health Care Journalists has urged President Barack Obama to end inherited policies that require public affairs officers to approve journalists’ interviews with federal staff.

Such policies, which are in place at such critical agencies as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and most agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services, hamper newsgathering and make it difficult for reporters to fulfill their obligation to hold government agencies accountable, AHCJ said in a letter to the Obama administration.

Federal public information officers can play a key role in facilitating and coordinating communication, but have been used in recent years to inhibit the flow of information to the public rather than foster it. AHCJ members have reported waiting for days for permission to conduct an interview, or have had requests ignored or denied entirely.

Read the full statement and see the letter (PDF) that was sent to Obama.

Doc: Medicine, journalism face similar challenges

In a world where opinions and insights pop up exponentially, to what extent can we rely on experts? And, moreover, just who is an expert? Ken Kosik, M.D., who co-directs the Neuroscience Research Institute at the University of California at Santa Barbara, raises these questions in a thoughtful essay in Harvard University’s Neiman Reports and suggests that, with the abundance of information available to us, no one is an infallible expert anymore.

In what he calls the ‘wikification of knowledge,’ Kosik maintains that medicine and journalism increasingly share the same challenges when it comes to gathering information and reaching conclusions in this new era of social media. At issue is a balancing act when it comes to weighing the wisdom of an expert with the modern-day equivalent of collective folk medicine.

“Within the potential of social networks lies untapped wiki knowledge poised to challenge the experts by opening wide the collective knowledge gate,” Kosik writes. “Wiki knowledge derived from a social network offers a fluid, open source, ongoing meta-analysis – a virtual collection of experiences that can be constantly updated as users enter more individual data. Social networks empower the ‘expert,’ be it a doctor or a journalist, because access to this community-generated knowledge is shared by all.”

Navigating this terrain, however, can be tricky, given the pitfalls he identifies: For one, those on a social network tend to be younger and not economically disadvantaged, which amounts to selection bias. Privacy is another factor, because networks of people can limit information that is shared. And entering false data on a social network can, of course, distort outcomes.

“While flickers of hope appear on the Web through encounters with others and a shared experience, judging the reliability of this experience – and its fit with our own – can be difficult. But to have the opportunity to find information and test its reliability means that no longer is one person – an expert – expected to know everything and render infallible judgment,” Kosik concludes. “That view is the no-longer tenable burden of the expert physician; nor can it any longer be the guiding belief of the trained journalist.”