Tag Archives: health reporting

2013 winners named in top health journalism awards

Tune in for the 2013 winners

See the announcement of the 2013 winners of the Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. Read more about each winner, including a summary of the entry. AHCJ members can click on the title of the entry to see the questionnaire about how the story was reported.

An investigation that found criminals running diet supplement companies, a series revealing the failure of hospitals to provide life-saving newborn screening tests and an examination of efforts to prevent childhood deaths in Africa and Asia were among the top winners of this year’s Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism.

First-place awards also went to articles that looked at the potential dangers of acetaminophen, the reasons behind a high suicide rate in Montana and what happens to veterans who lose their health benefits when they are discharged for minor offenses.

See the complete list of winners.

Journalists learn more about using social media tools

By Shuka Kalantari (@skalantari; @KQEDhealth)
KQED Public Radio

Though blogging and social media have been around for some time now, some people still argue that blogging, social media and journalism should be independent of one another. Scott Hensley of NPR’s Shots blog contends that couldn’t be further from the truth.

During a panel about “Best practices in blogging and social media” at Health Journalism 2011, Hensley said bloggers and journalists are perfect matches for each other. So how does a blogger decide what to write about?

The #ahcj11 Twitter stream helped attendees share information at Health Journalism 2011.

The #ahcj11 Twitter stream helped attendees share information at Health Journalism 2011.

“I want to write the most interesting stuff online,” Hensley said. “The stuff that is burning to be done right now, then see where it goes.”

He advised journalists to check their Twitter feed in the morning as it might give you story ideas.

“Twitter and Facebook can be a booster rocket to make a post go viral.” He added that it doesn’t always work but, if the post is interesting, it’s worth a shot. Hensley says that in addition to checking news sites, he always checks his personal Twitter feed – @scotthensley – as well as the NPR’s Twitter feed – @NPRhealth – to see what’s going on in the Twittersphere.

Ivan Oransky, treasurer of AHCJ’s board of directors, is the executive editor of Reuters Health and blogger for Retraction Watch and Embargo Watch. He joined the blogosphere in 2006 for The Scientist. Oransky says that search engine optimization (SEO) is key for any blogger. If you have a subject you are covering, be sure to use key words that will attract people.

“SEO, to me, means using key words where people that were interested in that subject would want to read about,” Oransky said.

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Hospital association official confuses news reporting with lobbying

Blythe Bernhard and Jeremy Kohler have been writing in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about Missouri hospitals’ unwillingness to publicly disclose medical errors.

So, when the St. Louis Metropolitan Hospital Council released a statement opposing public reporting of medical errors at hospitals, the reporters sent the statement to Missouri legislators and asked them for their comments.

I can only imagine the surprise Bernhard and Kohler felt when Daniel Landon, senior vice president of governmental relations for the Missouri Hospital Association, sent an e-mail to health professionals that characterized the reporters’ actions as coming “close to the definition of what constitutes lobbying, which is defined by the Missouri Ethics Commission and requires lobbyist registration.”

Landon said hospital association staff members planned to raise these concerns with legislators and had considered a complaint with the ethics commission.

“We think it is useful to put the Post-Dispatch on notice that someone is watching their actions in this regard,” Landon’s e-mail said. “Otherwise, the reporters will continue to push the envelope between reporting and promoting public policy changes to support their editorial positions.”

Another representative of the association later said the message was “regrettable.”

A Post-Dispatch editorial about the incident made clear to readers the difference between the editorial page and the news department, explaining that it “maintains strict church-state separation between the editorial page and the news department.”

When newspaper reporters or editorial writers communicate with legislators, we do so as journalists, acting in what we believe is the public interest. And regardless of whether public reporting of medical errors would serve hospitals’ interests, it clearly would serve the public interest.


Kohler wrote an article for AHCJ about how he and Bernhard investigated medical errors and the lack of public information available to help consumers choose their health care providers: Public handicapped by lack of information on medical errors.

EWA winners include health-related stories

The Education Writers Association announced the winners of the 2010 National Awards for Education Reporting yesterday. Since education and health frequently intersect, I took a look at the stories mentioned and found some worth pointing out.

Related tip sheets

Health and education: Two intersecting beats
Health and education: Reporting resources

Ind. station runs ‘canned’ story about Fla. boy

Jeremy Cox, medical reporter for the Jacksonville (Fla.) Times-Union, calls our attention to a television report about a boy who suffered a stroke and needed a rare surgery to save his life.

The report, which aired Thursday on WNDU-South Bend, Ind., was produced by Ivanhoe Broadcast News, a media company based in the Orlando, Fla., area.

Cox reports that the story, as aired on WNDU, “features the station’s health logo, ‘Maureen’s Medical Moment,’ along with an introduction and voice-over by the reporter Maureen McFadden.”

Critics have raised questions about these so-called “canned” reports in the past, as Cox points out:

Eric Deggans, the television and media critic for the St. Petersburg Times, asked a poignant question about health journalism a couple years ago. Two, actually.

“As a TV viewer, how do you know when reporters are presenting their own work? And does it matter if the format subtly encourages the audience to think a journalist has done work he has not?” he inquired.

Those questions topped a column about local television news reporters’ habit of presenting health stories produced by someone else as their own work. Without giving credit to that “someone else.”

In a 2009 blog post, Gary Schwitzer, an AHCJ member and publisher of HealthNewsReview.org, says that often stories produced in this way are “almost always about a single idea with one spokesman touting it.”

Certainly stories with a single source that lack independent analysis do not meet the standards set forth in AHCJ’s statement of principles, which calls for vigilance in selecting sources, recognition that most stories involve a degree of nuance and complexity that no single source could provide and seek out independent experts.