Sometimes my own critics have said that I am unfair to those who practice television health news. They imply that because I once worked in that field I am bitter in my criticisms.
Well, veteran journalist Trudy Lieberman never worked in TV news, but you must read her comprehensive indictment of current TV health news practices in the current issue of the Columbia Journalism Review.
She writes about news stations accepting pre-packaged new stories created by health care behemoths such as the Cleveland Clinic or the Mayo Clinic, creating stories that are “a hybrid of news and marketing, the likes of which has spread to local TV newsrooms all across the country in a variety of forms, almost like an epidemic. It’s the product of a marriage of the hospitals’ desperate need to compete for lucrative lines of business in our current health system and of TV’s hunger for cheap and easy stories. In some cases the hospitals pay for airtime, a sponsorship, and in others, they don’t but still provide expertise and story ideas. Either way, the result is that too often the hospitals control the story. Viewers who think they are getting news are really getting a form of advertising. And critical stories—hospital infection rates, for example, or medical mistakes or poor care—tend not to be covered in such a cozy atmosphere. The public, which could use real health reporting these days, gets something far less than quality, arms-length journalism.”
Read the full story. Then you’ll see that it’s not just me who thinks that much of TV health news is in critical condition, possibly creating more harm than good.