The health sector spends many hundreds of thousands of dollars (and most often taxpayers’ dollars) each year on worthy reports that are rarely even read – or are least not much beyond the executive summary.
Could the online revolution that is transforming the nature of journalism and public debate also hold some ideas for how to extend the reach and impact of health reports?
Surely it’s time we started moving beyond the dull-but-worthy tomes that gather dust on so many shelves towards creating more interactive and engaging communication tools.
This thought occurred to me last week while doing this “wired scribe” workshop put on for journalists by our union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance.
Our trainer was Renee Barnes, a Melbourne-based journalist who is also a part-time journalism lecturer and doing a PhD on the characteristics of online media communities.
I am by no means an early adopter of new technology but have loved what little I know of Twitter et al, and what they’ve brought to my journalism.
Two recent examples – I found out about the study featured in this recent post about tobacco and alcohol industry strategies thanks to a tweet from Ian Wardle, who is prolific at Twitter on alcohol and drug-related matters. He is from the Lifeline project in the UK, which aims “to relieve poverty, sickness and distress among those persons affected by addiction to drugs of any kind, and to educate the public on matters relating to drug misuse”.
So it was thanks to an English tweeter that this Australian journalist found out about an Australian study.
Another example: recently my editor at Australian Rural Doctor magazine, Marge Overs, and I used Google Groups to conduct a private, online forum for female doctors in rural and remote areas. It gave them a safe space to share their personal and professional experiences at a time that suited their busy schedules. And it allowed me to tap into an interactive discussion rather than doing a series of one-on-one interviews that I suspect would not have yielded such rich pickings.
I thought that Croakey readers who appreciate the potential of online communications might be interested in a few of the tips I picked up during the workshop.
Audio slideshows – or a series of photos with narrative voiceover – can be far more powerful than conventional audio, visual or written stories.
Surely, there is great potential for using this medium for telling health stories. What about an annual slideshow on Australia’s Health, for example? Or a slideshow telling the story of someone with a serious mental illness, and how their needs are (or are not) being met by various services and agencies?
This is like keeping an online archive of all your favourite and useful articles and links to share with others. It works well in tandem with Twitter. If you add a Delicious button to your internet browser, it’s so simple to archive articles sourced through Twitter (or anywhere for that matter).
You can see the articles I’ve started archiving here.
Here are the articles with tips for using Twitter that Renee Barnes has archived at Delicious.
More on Twitter
Some Twitter tools that may come in handy:
Google Reader lets you subscribe to your favorite websites so new content comes to you when it’s posted. Reader keeps track of which things you’ve read. If there’s a dark blue border around an item, Reader is marking that item as read.
What’s making health news
Blogpulse is an automated trend discovery system for blogs. It analyses and reports on daily activity in the blogosphere.
Twazzup For tracking health stories in real time on twitter. Who is saying what, who are the major “influencers”? It was interesting to follow the progress of the recent news about Avandia at Twazzup, for example.
Search engine optimisation
• For various reasons, I had to miss some of the workshop. If I’ve left out anything important, perhaps some of the other participants could let Croakey readers know….