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.
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.