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Another breach of ethics with major market TV health news

Gary Schwitzer is founder and publisher of HealthNewsReview.org.  He worked in TV health news for 15 years – in Milwaukee, Dallas, and at CNN.

Media columnist James Rainey of the LA Times writes about another television health news breach of journalism ethics. Excerpt:

“You would have to forgive viewers like the one who e-mailed me last month for being a bit confused about a news segment he saw on KCBS Channel 2.

The man referred me to a 90-second segment he saw after the “CBS Evening News,” wondering if it was legitimate news. It featured KCBS health reporter Lisa Sigell, interviewing the chief medical officer of City of Hope Medical Center about the promise of new cancer treatments.

In a similar piece in March, Sigell talked to another of the hospital’s doctors about the threat of colorectal cancer and the importance of screening to avoid the disease.

Given that the “CBS Healthwatch” and CBS logos flashed on the screen, a viewer could be forgiven for thinking that they were watching a pair of news briefs. Both spots appeared at the end of the regular news.

But viewer beware: Not all that appears to be news is news as we once knew it.

The City of Hope website describes the KCBS segments as “part of CBS Healthwatch, targeted medical informational advertisements that have run on CBS affiliates for 12 years.”

In other words, the line between editorial and advertising had been obscured again — with the hospital getting a nice chance to showcase a couple of its top people in a format that looked like news but was actually paid advertising.”

Read the entire column.

Note to Radio-Television Digital News Association officials: Do you think this practice aligns with your code of ethics? When is the organization ever going to address these repeated questions about TV health “news” practices?

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