In her latest report on the activities of Media Doctor Australia, Amanda Wilson has some good news about the quality of health reporting.
And at the bottom of her post are some links to recent developments in health journalism.
Some media outlets do better than others when it comes to health news
Amanda Wilson writes:
2012 has started as a great year for health news reporting, according to the Media Doctor Australia ratings.
We’ve seen some really impressive reporting with some very high scoring ratings for stories in The Australian including a study of a 4-hour treatment target in emergency departments and stem cell treatment for dry macular degeneration.
Another high scoring story from the SMH discussed a vaccine to treat bacterial meningitis.
Most of the other stories we’ve rated this year also scored well with only two exceptions: a really horrible story from the Herald Sun about a midwife who cooks up placentas and sells them back to the mothers as a health pill and an overly optimistic story from the SMH that was confusingly light on detail about a psychosis treatment.
This mostly impressive reporting of health news correlates well with our overall ratings of health stories in the Australian media.
We’ve been rating individual news outlets for close to 8 years and in that time we’ve seen the average score of items rated satisfactory rise from 40% in April 2004 to nearly 80% in October 2011.
The 80% score is the average scores from all stories for in a short time period (Oct 2011). The average score for the whole of 2011 was much lower at 56%. However, there is an upward trend in the scores and the latest spike is encouraging.
Some news outlets, such as the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Age and news.com.au score relatively well (54-65%).
Others, including Herald Sun, The Daily Telegraph, and ABC’s Health and Wellbeing score below 50% (42-47%).
The outstanding performers are the ABC’s News in Science (72%) and The World Today (82%), while the poorest scores belong to the TV current affairs shows of Today Tonight (32%) and A Current Affair (33%). We have stopped rating these programs’ stories since they stopped providing transcripts online around a year ago. But we think these ratings speak for themselves.
You can view the individual outlets’ score and comparative graphs at http://mediadoctor.org.au/content/media.jsp.
• Also, just a reminder that if you missed MDA’s recent call for help, the organisation’s future is financially shaky, and Wilson and colleagues would welcome contact from philanthropists who may be interested in supporting a good cause or anyone with fund-raising suggestions…
Suggested reading for those with an interest in health and the media
• US-based health journalist, blogger, and journalism lecturer Ivan Oransky – a “must-follow” on Twitter for those interested in health news and journalism – shares his recent presentations on social media, science, health and journalism.
• This US report about patients doing citizen journalism to share medical conference news with other patients raises many interesting issues. Will patient reporters be better placed than journalists to report on the issues that matter to their audiences? What are the pros and cons of having reporters with such a personal interest in the matters they are covering? How will the tensions between the individual patient perspective and the broader population health perspective be balanced? One of the people featured in the report wears at least three hats – as reporter, health professional and patient.
• A fresh look at ageing comes from this multimedia production, Brave Old World, from News21 fellows from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. A team of 13 young reporters spent 10 weeks interviewing older adults (including older workers), their families and a variety of experts. The stories, told through text, audio, photographs, interactive graphics and video, look at aging trends unfolding across the country. Parts of the project appeared in The Washington Post, on The New York Times website, on forbes.com and Kaiser Health News. Meanwhile, the Association of Health Care Journalists also has useful resources to help journalistic investigations in this area.