Atlanta TV station has newsmen promoting prostate cancer screening

We interrupt breast cancer awareness month messages to bring you some prostate cancer awareness news.

After we wrote about problems with a Buffalo prostate cancer screening promotion, reader Ken Leebow of Atlanta wrote to me about what the NBC station in Atlanta has been doing.

What is particularly problematic in this campaign is that journalists are blatantly taking an advocacy stance on behalf of a practice that comes with deep reservations and cautions from leading health care groups, as noted in our Buffalo post.

In this video (top) and in the flyer (below), you’ll see WXIA newsmen becoming pitchmen for a cause.


The Radio Television Digital News Association code of ethics states that journalists should:

  •  Recognize that service in the public interest creates an obligation to reflect the diversity of the community and guard against oversimplification of issues or events. (My comment:  this campaign clearly oversimplifies the complexity of the decision to consider prostate cancer screening.)
  • Provide a full range of information to enable the public to make enlightened decisions. (My comment:  where is the full range of – or even a hint at – the tradeoffs involved between potential benefits and harms in prostate cancer screening?)
  • Journalists should not engage in activities that may compromise their integrity or independence. (My comment:  once you partner with a health care facility and advocate for their cause, how can the audience ever be assured that you will report on that entity with the same vigor as if that partnership/advocacy relationship did not exist?)

That doesn’t even begin to address the “Independence” clause of the code, which begins: “Professional electronic journalists should defend the independence of all journalists from those seeking influence or control over news content.”

Any journalist who put on that gown for these ads has been influenced by those seeking influence.

Finally, read the ad copy in the lowest ad.  It says “If your doctor recommends prostate cancer screening for you….”  Whoa.  How does that mesh with the call for “screening decisions to be based on patient preferences” ? This isn’t about doctors’ recommendations.  This is about men being fully informed about what they stand to gain and what they stand to lose, and then plugging their own values and preferences into that equation.

Fully informed. Something not possible from this silly ad campaign that turns newsmen into promoters.


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