Tag Archives: false balance

Getting to the truth when covering measles outbreak


A basic tenant in reporting is that there are two sides to a story, but in public health, that may not always be the case, says Melba Newsome, a Charlotte, N.C.-based freelance health care journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, O magazine, Time, and other publications.

Newsome was confronted with this challenge when writing an in-depth story for CQ Researcher on the recent measles outbreak, and the story behind how the contagious disease has made a come back in the era of modern medicine. Continue reading

Tip sheet helps journalists cover vaccine hesitancy responsibly

Tara Haelle, AHCJ core topic leader on medical studies, contributed to this post.

Journalists have a tricky role when covering a public health issue like vaccine hesitancy and opposition. We have a responsibility to report medical facts, but we also want to tell stories of these facts playing out in real life – and we must avoid appearing as advocates or taking a “stance” on whether parents should vaccinate their children or not.

The medical evidence is clear – vaccines are safe and effective – but a small minority of people refuse, or remain unable, to accept medical evidence. Since that small minority can have a substantial impact on public health more broadly, journalists have to capture the micro and the macro while balancing storytelling with facts. Continue reading

Satirist John Oliver imparts valuable advice for health journalists

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

If satire is a lesson, as novelist Vladimir Nabokov allegedly said, then John Oliver is among its best teachers — even, perhaps surprisingly, when it comes to assessing medical studies and their coverage in the media. If you haven’t already seen the segment I’m talking about, it’s really worth the time, both for lessons and for laughs, to watch it in full below.

During Oliver’s HBO show “Last Week Tonight,” he went on a tirade on Sunday about how poorly the media frequently portrays the studies that science is constantly producing. Continue reading