Tag Archives: science reporting

Doctor/blogger: Can’t depend on science reporting

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.

Val Jones, M.D., a blogger at Science-Based Medicine and president and CEO of a health education company, tees off on media coverage of science in a post titled “Why You Can’t Depend On The Press For Science Reporting.”

Jones writes about a recent encounter with a reporter writing about holistic treatments. The reporter interviewed Jones about energy healing and alternative medicine because a local hospital is offering therapeutic touch and Reiki healing treatments.

Jones, who documented the interview – or at least the “essence” of the interview – on the blog, says the final article didn’t include “a single word” of what she said and that the piece is:

full of the usual pseudoscientific arguments: anecdotal evidence, mistrust of scientific methods, a call to “open-mindedness,” an emphasis on “natural” as being synonymous with “safe and effective,” and an “everybody’s doing it, even academic medical centers” rationale for adoption. There was no dissenting opinion – just an unquestioning acceptance of energy medicine.

Jones’ skepticism about journalists’ ability to cover science in a fact- and evidence-based way is clear: “Thank goodness we’re no longer beholden to mainstream media for all our health news and commentary.”

She calls for scientists and health care professionals to “step up to the plate” and contribute to “unedited” outlets such as Science-Based Medicine because “Waiting for reporters to include us in the discourse could take a very long time…”

The comments on the post – now up to 30 – are interesting, with many reinforcing Jones’ view that journalists in general do a poor job. But there are some, such as one from “Fifi” that points out this particular reporter was probably not a science or health writer and was probably writing a “fluff” piece for a lifestyles section. Other commenters point out that it really does depend on who the reporter is.

So, Covering Health readers, what would you tell Jones about how you report science and health news? Do you see the same problems she does or is her generalization unfair?