Commercialism in TV health news

See my article on the Poynter Institute website, documenting perhaps the most disturbing trend in television health news coverage today.

2 7/13/2005

Journalists shouldn't live by weekly journals

A review in JAMA shows that journal article findings that a treatment worked were contradicted 16 percent of the time by later studies. And another 16 percent of the time, studies found weaker results than earlier suggested. So nearly a third of original published results did not hold up to further scrutiny. Dartmouth and VA […]


Separating the puppets from the pros in TV health news

See my article on the Columbia Journalism Review’s website. In recognition of the sorry state of television health news, it’s a call for certification of TV health reporters.  TV meteorologists get certified by the American Meteorological Society after they prove some level of knowledge and skill.  But the audience doesn’t know anything about the credentials […]


TV news doesn't cover health policy news

40-million uninsured Americans.  15 percent of the GNP spent on health care.  Medicare in trouble.  States squeezed to manage Medicaid.  Just a few things in the news, yet local TV news doesn’t find time for many of these issues. See my J school’s summer <a href=”http://www.sjmc.umn.edu/mreporter/healthcomm.html” target=”_blank”>magazine</a> for a glimpse of my 2004 election year […]


WebMD story hypes Levitra

WebMD posted one of those stories that makes my skin crawl. The formula: use a cute, sexy headline and lead sentence, then follow with weak caveats, leaving the reader with nothing useful at the end. The story is headlined, “Levitra a Day May Keep the Doctor Away.” It promotes Levitra use with its lead sentences, […]


Caveat Viewer

Jessie Gruman, Ph.D., of the Center for the Advancement of Health, offers a column on the dangers of television health news and information. Excerpt: “In Oklahoma City, a popular new local television program based on the ABC network’s “Extreme Makeover” takes women eager for a new look and sets them up with plastic surgeons, Lasik […]


Journalists suggest scientists know more than they do

Three of my former Dartmouth colleagues published an excellent review in the Washington Post on how news coverage last year “probably misled readers about both the size and certainty of the benefit of aspirin in preventing breast cancer.” More than just pointing a finger, the researchers explain how the research was misinterpreted and offer some […]


Reporters are not the story

Old school journalistic values are still important: it’s vital to try to preserve objectivity and distance from your subject and sources. You may not always achieve it, but you don’t throw these values away willy-nilly. Then comes TV news ratings/sweeps periods. KSTP-TV in Minneapolis began a two-part series on one of their reporter’s ovarian cancer […]


CNN fails straight facts on gay foster parents debate

CNN, in a new struggle with the definition and practice of credibility, played matador in allowing questionable statistics on the air in a debate over a Texas legislative move to prevent same-sex couples from becoming foster parents. CNN allowed a supporter of the legislation to claim that research showed that children in foster homes with […]


Hyperbole's new heights (or depths)

When one reader saw my posting about CNN’s declaration that a pediatric surgeon was a “god” doing “miracles,” he referred me to a similar story in the Onion, entitled “Amazing New Hyperbolic Chamber Greatest Invention In the History of Mankind Ever.” Read it. It may remind you of something you’ve seen in TV health news.


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