Tag Archives: medical correspondents

Doctor or journalist? Roles become blurred in Haiti

Pia Christensen

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.

As aid flows to Haiti and the full scope of the disaster becomes clear, there is an interesting discussion happening among health journalists about the role of medical correspondents reporting from the scene of such disasters.

Physicians who work for television networks and have been sent to Haiti have been juggling their roles as doctors and reporters:

Footage of all of those correspondents treating patients has aired on their networks and Web sites, raising the question of whether “news organizations at some point appear to be capitalizing for promotional reasons on the intervention by journalists,” according to Bob Steele, journalism values scholar at the Poynter Institute.

Matea Gold, of the Los Angeles Times, reported on the topic and has thoughts from Steele, Snyderman, Besser and CNN’s president about the issue.

Gary Schwitzer, of the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism & Mass Communication and publisher of HealthNewsReview.org, asks “Who teaches journalism ethics to physician-reporters?” and has “An examination of the ethics of MD-reporter involvement in Haiti.”

In an online chat today, three readers asked Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz about the medical and journalistic ethics of treating patients on camera. Kurtz responded that he has “mixed feelings” about it. Interestingly, on Kurtz’s CNN show, “Reliable Sources,” that aired on Sunday, he used a clip of Gupta examining the 15-day-old baby as an example of how the media is focusing on Haiti’s children but did not comment on the ethical issue of physician-journalists treating patients.

Rahul K. Parikh, M.D., a doctor who regularly writes for Salon.com, writes about Gupta taking responsibility for the patients who were left alone by the Belgian medical team:

Cynics may sneer that Gupta’s decision to stay was a self-promotional act intended to boost ratings and his profile, that his nobility was inspired more by the eye of the camera than the Hippocratic oath. But don’t count me among those skeptics; I believe those lives were, literally, in Gupta’s hands, and he responded.

Update

The Washington Post now has an article about reporters who double as doctors in Haiti that includes comments from the president of CBS News, who says “that competitive issues have factored in boosting Ashton’s role since Gupta became a star,” and from the director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin’s journalism school, who cautions that such coverage can become self-promotional.

Ashton: Physicians at forefront of medical media

Pia Christensen

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.

Jennifer Ashton, M.D., the new medical correspondent for CBS News, asserts that “when you look at the people who are really at the forefront of medical media and the medical correspondents, they are physicians” in an interview for Columbia News Tonight, produced by the Columbia School of Journalism in New York.

Ashton, a practicing physician, also says that she thinks the things that make a good doctor are the same things that make a good medical correspondent. “You can do it well without the MD but I think again its like learning or knowing a foreign language and going to that country. It really puts you one step ahead of the game.”

Gary Schwitzer, of HealthNewsReview.org and the University of Minnesota, disagrees with Ashton.