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Health news “infoxication” – info fatigue syndrome – not just a US phenomenon: reflections on European health journalism conference

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Big Ben.jpgI’m back from London and Coventry, where Coventry University and the Association of Health Care Journalists (and others) hosted a European health journalism conference last week, which Professor John Lister of Coventry U. called a first of its kind event.

About 70 people from 12 European countries attended.

It quickly became evident how large is the potential for international collaborations between US health journalists – and the leadership of the Association of Health Care Journalists – and European health journalists. Representatives of the Medical Journalists Association and of the National Union of Journalists (both of the UK) attended and spoke.

Issues arose within the first few hours about standards of reporting, about the ethics of accepting industry money to attend conferences or training, and about “triumph over tragedy” stories that may not be patient-centered – just as a few examples.

Two buzzwords were bounced around – churnalism – as hunted down by the relatively new British site that tries to separate news-release-“journalism” from truly independently vetted journalism.

And a new one to me – “infoxication” – to describe how health care and news consumers are drowning or intoxicated by information. One writer refers to this condition as “information fatigue syndrome.”

Discussion focused on medical journal practices and what journals could do to elevate the quality of the flow of information to physicians, journalists and the public.

A conference blog has short items and some links about some of what was discussed.

(Pictured below are photos of the ruins of the Coventry Cathedral, site of a church since the beginning of the 12th Century, but destroyed in relentless Luftwaffe firebombing on November 14, 1940. The ruins stand as a stunning memorial.)

Coventry ruins 1.JPG

Coventry ruins 2.JPG

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Ken Leebow

June 27, 2011 at 12:22 pm

In 1989 (BI – Before Internet) there was a book written by Richard Wurman titled: “Information Anxiety”.
Today, more than ever we have info. anxiety. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and more help create an ever constant flow of data. It may be accurate and it may be total propaganda.
However, it is increasingly hard to decipher. For example, I just got fed this very pretty infographic (seems to be the new buzzword) that presents the negative outcomes of drinking soda …
Upon reading the small print, one of the sources for the info. was a water company. At that point, I became skeptical.
In this day and age, it’s best to filter, filter, filter … the information. So, instead of Information Anxiety, you have information sanity.