How to uncover commercialism


The U.S. spends more money per capita on health care than any other country. So it is not surprising that there are many commercial interests in the health care industry looking for good publicity from journalists.

The Statement of Principles of the Association of Health Care Journalists states that journalists should:

  • Be vigilant in selecting sources, asking about, weighing and disclosing relevant financial, advocacy, personal or other interests of those we interview as a routine part of story research and interviews.
  • Investigate and report the possible links between sources of information (studies or experts) and those (such as the manufacturers) who promote a new idea or therapy. Investigate and report the possible links between researchers and private companies, researchers and public institutions, patient advocacy groups and their sponsors, celebrity spokespersons and their sponsors, non-profit health and professional organizations and their sponsors.

Here are several articles on commercialism in news coverage of drugs:

“Bitter Pill,” by Trudy Lieberman, is available at: http://www.cjr.org/issues/2005/4/lieberman.asp.

“Celebrity Selling,” by Ray Moynihan (2 parts), available at: http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/324/7349/1342 and http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/325/7358/286

“Commercialism in TV Health News,” by Gary Schwitzer, is available at: http://www.poynter.org/content/content_view.asp?id=85652

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