Nieman Reports

A journal presenting information concerning media issues for the academic audience.

Articles from Vol. 57, No. 2, Summer

A Chasm of Distrust in Medical Reporting: A Doctor Who Was a Medical Journalist Tries to Understand Why Journalists Don't Trust Their Sources and Sources Don't Trust Reporters. (Medical Reporting)
After working as a medical journalist for 10 years, I entered medical school and then a residency in internal medicine. To my surprise, I emerged to find a new world of medical journalism. I am encouraged by some aspects of this world but disillusioned...
Acting as Watchdog on Cancer Research: A Small Newsletter Can Create Big Waves with Its Long and Complicated Stories. (Watchdog)
In January 2002, soon after our little weekly newsletter broke a big story about troubles at a biotechnology company called ImClone Systems Inc., I got a call from a reporter from one of the major dailies. The reporter had a problem: He had a copy...
A Doctor Examines a Journalist's Work: As She Moves between Being a Doctor and a Medical Journalist, Loyalties Are Divided. (Medical Reporting)
Sometimes I envy the real journalists. I imagine them marching forthrightly into the hospital, the clinic, the doctor's office, declaring themselves as members of the press. They are welcomed--or they are treated with suspicion. They are given the...
A Hard Look Finds a Network Script Fades to Blah: A Journalist Tracks Where and How a Medical Story Began and How Its Content Came to Be Exaggerated. (Medical Reporting)
I drink tea. A lot of it. Mug after mug. Day after day. Been drinking it since I was a kid. So I've been glad to hear tea may be good for us. But I'm teed off by stories that seem to have more holes than a sieve. Last September 24th, one such story...
A Lengthy Legal Battle to Gain Access to Public Documents: A Delaware Newspaper Tries to Obtain Data about the State's Criminal Justice System. (Watchdog)
By now, there have been years of repeated Freedom of Information Act requests and lawsuits, appeals, filings, pleadings, responses, hearings, conferences, negotiations, affidavits, experts and many thousands of dollars paid to attorneys. A Delaware...
Blogging the War Away: A Media Critic Wages His Own Media War against the Coverage of the War. (Watchdog)
We have all been reading and seeing reports from Iraq, from journalists embedded and not, reports from what have been described as the frontlines of the fight for "Iraqi freedom." Throughout the American media world and beyond, there has been a hearty...
Blurring the Line between Journalist and Publicist: For Things to Change, the Washington Press Corps Needs to Lead the Way. (Watchdog)
New communications technology and the Pentagon's bold policy of embedding 600 journalists inside military units transfixed Americans with a war in Iraq drenched in immediacy. Confronted with such compelling content, it was possible for Americans to...
Breaking the Medical Malpractice Code of Secrecy: At the Burlington Free Press, a Reporter Persists in Unearthing Stories That Doctors Don't Want Told. (Watchdog)
The story began in February 2001, with a brief news item in a tiny newspaper downstate. The State of Vermont Board of Medical Practice had ruled that a local orthopedic surgeon--despite several complaints against him--was allowed to continue to practice....
Constraints on China's Coverage of SARS: For a Variety of Reasons, Neither the Government nor the Press Handled the Medical Crisis Well. (Medical Reporting)
During the explosive spread of the SARS virus, in the land of its origin, the media were preoccupied with weighty political stories. Changes in China's domestic leadership at home, along with the distraction of America's preemptive war on Iraq, dominated...
Coverage of War. (Journalist's Trade)
It's always been a tug-of-war between secretive government officials and those whose job it is--the press--to hold them and their actions accountable. In peaceful times, no elected leaders, no appointed administrators want their decisions rigorously...
Covering Ethical Debates about Medical Issues: Journalists in Nebraska Played a Role in Informing People about the Complexities of the Science and Ethics of Medical Research. (Medical Reporting)
Nebraskans know what to expect from the arrival of spring: sandhill cranes returning to the Platte River, forsythia bursting into yellow bloom, the Cornhusker football team rolling onto the practice field. But three years ago, spring brought with it...
Covering the War before It Started: While Iraq War Coverage Worked Well, Did Journalists Probe Enough about Policies and Evidence That Led to This War Being Waged? (Watchdog)
The war in Iraq lasted less than a month. Post-war conflicts and issues will undoubtedly last for years. But the expected American military victory was, as advertised, swift and smiled. Of course, as Gulf Wars I and II show, it helps to fight the Iraqis....
Critical Tools for Medical Reporting: A Medical Editor's Book Provides Advice and Guidance for Journalists. (Medical Reporting)
Journalists are supposed to ask probing questions, verify what sources say, then be selective in what they report. This is part of performing their journalistic mission. What this means for medical reporters is that they must work to separate scientific...
Digging beneath What Is Said to Be the Truth: 'It Puts the Journalist in the Position of Challenging the Source Directly, a Position No Reporter or Editor Finds Comfortable.' (Watchdog)
It is said that journalism is a blunt tool and has trouble handling the subtleties of issues. Maybe. But there are times when the hardest things for journalists to handle are not subtleties, but the most blatant falsehoods, the biggest whoppers. ...
Documenting Native Approaches to Wellness: With Images and Words, a Journalist Tells the Story of a Tribe's Effort to Prevent and Control Type II Diabetes. (Medical Reporting)
"In North America, Indians are like the canaries in a coal mine. We foretell the future for the entire population."--As told by an Ojibwe elder. When I chose to attend the journalism school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, my great dream...
Embedding Reporters on the Frontline: With Regained Public Trust, Watchdog Reporting Might Be More Welcomed for Its Role in Protecting Democracy. (Watchdog)
Several weeks into the Iraq War, the Pentagon's embedding policy was judged a resounding success. While questions will always remain about the degree to which reporting from within a war effort must inevitably compromise journalistic independence,...
German Skepticism about America's Intent and Goals in Iraq: One Headline Called It 'The Worst Invasion of Baghdad since the Mongols.' (Coverage of War)
The cover page of Der Spiegel displayed the globe as a broken egg. "Pax Americana--The new world order," read this influential magazine's headline days after the fighting in Iraq ended. On the inside pages of this German publication, editors made the...
Getting a More Complete War Story: Arab + U.S. Television = More Accurate War Coverage. (Coverage of War)
This article appeared in The Daily Star on March 25, 2003, written by Rami G. Khouri, executive editor of The Daily Star, an English-language newspaper in Beirut, Lebanon. Khouri is a 2002 Nieman Fellow. The first thing I learned from the early...
Helping Reporters Play the Medical Numbers Game: A Journalist Reminds Us about How Tricky Putting 'Facts' into Perspective Can Be. (Medical Reporting)
As medical reporters, we laugh at the tale about the drug-treatment researcher who said, "Thirty-three percent were cured, 33 percent died--and the third mouse got away." We know that the more patients (or mice) in a study, the better. Big numbers...
Investigating What Goes Wrong in Medicine: After 30 Years of Doing This, a Reporter Passes along Lessons-Some Serious, Some Not So Serious. (Watchdog)
The fellow who said we learn all we need to know in kindergarten must have been onto something, because he made a lot of loot off that little book. And when I think back on my three decades of conducting investigations into health care issues and atrocities,...
In War, Journalists Become Part of the Problem: 'It Was Horrifying, Confusing, Numbing and Nothing like the Myth I Had Been Peddled.' (Watchdog)
As I speak to you today, our nation prepares for war. Within a short time, young Americans and Iraqis will begin to die.... I come to you tonight to warn you that once the dogs of war are unleashed, we will not control them. War has a force and power...
Is Stem Cell Reporting Telling the Real Story? A Journalist Says That Media Coverage of Stem Cells and Cloning Is Repeating the Mistakes the Press Made during the Dot-Com Bubble. (Medical Reporting)
Mainstream media coverage of stem cells and cloning is starry. eyed, lopsided and deceptive. But at least it is no worse than journalists' coverage of the dot-corn bubble. As the Internet bubble inflated, reporters magnified the industry's promises...
Jim Thomson's Courage Is Lauded at Boston University Symposium. (Nieman Notes)
After Jim Thomson retired as Curator of the Nieman Foundation, he had yet another career as a professor of history, journalism and international relations at Boston University. At a symposium in his honor, author and columnist Anthony Lewis, a 1957...
Keeping an Eye on Thailand's Press: A Media Column Tracks Coverage and Commentary about the War in Iraq. (Coverage of War)
Songpol Kaopatumtip, a 1987 Nieman Fellow, is editor of the Sunday Perspective section of the Bangkok Post and writes a column called "Eye on the Thai Press" for the Post's Web site. In his column, he tracks commentaries from Thai publications. He...
Learning to Be a Medical Journalist: 'If You Already Are a Smiled Reporter and Writer, the Transition to Medical Journalism Should Be Relatively Easy.' (Medical Reporting)
Talk to 10 medical journalists and you'll find 10 different career paths. Common to most medical reporters is a love for writing and a deep interest in medicine and science. But how does someone prepare for a career in this field, a hybrid of science...
Lee Winfrey, a Former Television for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Died on April 2, 2003 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from Arteriosclerosis and Diabetes. (1972)
Lee Winfrey, a former television for The Philadelphia Inquirer, died on April 2, 2003 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from arteriosclerosis and diabetes. He was 70. Winfrey was a "veteran reporter who covered Castro in Cuba, Washington politics, and...
'Living with Cancer': A Newspaper Links Forces with TV and Radio to Inform the Community about the Causes and Consequences of This Disease. (Medical Reporting)
In 2001, the Star-Gazette in Elmira, New York, embarked on publication of a yearlong project examining how cancer affects our community and its residents. The idea for this project emerged out of an event that happened in early 2000, when a small but...
Medical Reporting
"The chasm between medical journalists and physicians appears mostly to be one of ignorance rather than conflicting interests or malice," writes Terry L. Schraeder, who for 10 years worked as a medical journalist before entering medical school. Now...
Medical Reporting in a Highly Commercialized Environment: A Family Doctor Prescribes Eight Guiding Principles for Accurate and Fair Coverage of Research Findings. (Watchdog)
The article about C-reactive protein (CRP) in the November 14, 2002 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) made a great news story. A little known and inexpensive blood test that measures the level of inflammation in the body was found...
Mental Illness: Reporting on Maine's Most Vulnerable Children: Doctors and Social Workers Said She'd 'Never Be Able to Tell the Story.' She Did. (Watchdog)
Their psychiatric files, their poems, pictures and diaries sat in piles by my bed. I read them before I slept. I dreamed about them at night. I thought of them during the day. They were children with psychiatric troubles, children whose lives were...
Newspaper Editors Confront Errors: 'We Learn from One Another's Mistakes.' (Curator's Corner)
A strength of our craft is its transparency and its capacity for searching examination when core values and standards of journalistic performance are violated. This spring, several of our nation's leading newspapers demonstrated an admirable willingness...
Nieman Fellows Honor Late Zimbabwe Journalist, Mark Chavunduka, with 2003 Louis Lyons Award. (Nieman Notes)
Mark Chavunduka, the founding editor of The (Zimbabwe) Standard, has been selected by Harvard University's Nieman Fellows to receive the 2003 Louis Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism. Chavunduka, a reporter and editor whose struggle...
Nieman Foundation Announces U.S. and International Fellows for 2003-04. (Nieman Notes)
Thirteen U.S. and 12 international journalists were appointed to the 66th class of Nieman Fellows at Harvard University. The new U.S. fellows and their areas of interest are: Erin Barnett, reporter, The Oregonian: How identity, socioeconomic status,...
Photographer Gordon Parks Turns 90: 'Gordon Is Our Lamplighter, and I Love Him for That.' (Nieman Notes)
In the early afternoon of November 30th of last year, 90 African-American photographers and editors gathered on the steps of a brownstone apartment near Adam Clayton Powell and 125th Street in Harlem. It was the 90th birthday of Gordon Parks, and they...
Portraits of the Living with the Dead: A Photographer Documents the Transition from Medical Student to Physician. (Medical Reporting)
The process of dissecting the human body during Gross Anatomy class forces medical students to face death, all in the hope of better understanding life. This introductory experience is considered a major transition in the training of physicians. And...
Presidential Secrecy and Reporters' Efforts to Breach It: A Former White House Correspondent Suggests Ways to Ask More Probing Questions. (Watchdog)
All Presidents resent the prying eyes of the press and all Presidents practice secrecy in matters beyond national security. But none in modern times has carried secrecy so far with such success as President George W. Bush. If the father once famously...
Reporting Holds Michigan's Child Welfare System Accountable: At the Detroit Free Press, a Watchdog Reporter Sees the Impact of His Stories. (Watchdog Reporting)
Like other children's beat reporters, I closely followed the case of Florida's missing five-year-old foster child, Rilya Wilson, whose disappearance last year added to the already abysmal reputation of Florida's Department of Children and Families....
Reporting the Cloning Story: From Hype to Healthy Skepticism: Journalists Can Produce Stronger Stories by Scrutinizing the Motives, Finances and Personalities of Researchers. (Medical Reporting)
The scene was the National Academy of Sciences, the palace of the American scientific establishment. Marble columns. Walnut paneling. One of the neoclassical buildings that give Washington, D.C. its imperial feel. Only on this day, the building was...
Televised War Coverage in Namibia: 'It Is Evident That Objective Journalism Has Been Lost in the "Us" and "Them" Scenario.' (Coverage of War)
This column appeared in The Namibian on March 28, 2003, written by its editor, Gwen Lister. Lister, a 1996 Nieman Fellow, founded the Namibian in 1985. In 2001, she was named one of the 50 World Press Freedom Heroes by the International Press Institute....
The Emotional Toll of Reporting on a Cancer Trial: 'I'd Essentially Planned to Do a Story about Dying People with No Real Hope of a Cure Acting as Guinea Pigs.' (Medical Reporting)
I never realized how seductive a molecule could be. But as I listened to the director of the Medical College of Ohio Cancer Institute speak about this mosaic of proteins, I was surely falling into its spell. It was beguiling, this tiny bit of antibody....
The Lukas Prize Project 2003 Awards. (Nieman NOtes)
Samantha Power, Robert Harms, and Suzannah Lessard were given the 2003 J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project awards at a ceremony held on May 8 at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. The awards recognize examples of nonfiction writing...
The Press and Freedom: A Radio Journalist Spots Disturbing Trends in How the White House Press Corps Reports on the Bush Administration. (Watchdog)
Bob Edwards is the host of National Public Radio's "Morning Edition." Edwards, a Louisville native, was inducted on April 8 into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame. That day, he gave the annual Joe Creason Lecture at the University of Kentucky. The...
Transforming Medical Science into Public Policy: An Editorial Writer Describes Her Role in Helping Readers Understand the Issues. (Medical Reporting)
Tension between scientific research and public policy is natural and even desirable. The conflicts enveloping policymaking about stem cell research have resulted, however, in a Gordian knot of red tape. A consequence: reduced support for cutting-edge...
Using Technology to Uncover Medical Stories: With Computer-Assisted Reporting: Think Small and Big. (Watchdog)
For a few years in the mid-1990's, I was the geek in the corner of the newsroom--the in-house "computer-assisted reporter" at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. Many papers big and small had somebody like me: a reporter, often self-trained or schooled...
War Coverage in the Chinese Media: The Chinese People Saw Changes in the Way News of This War Was Brought to Them. (Coverage of War)
It does not look like Chinese media. People in China were astonished at how quickly and intensively CCTV and China National Radio--the state-run television and radio stations--and some newspapers provided news about the Iraq war. Since March 20th,...
Weighing Anecdotal Evidence against the Studies: A Reporter Explores Connections between Increased Rates of Cancer and the Changing Lifestyle of Alaska Natives. (Medical Reporting)
Larry Aiken took it upon himself to pull up sunken military equipment from the depths of a lagoon in Barrow, Alaska. Outfitted in the outdoor gear he'd purchased and working from a boat the community provided, each time he brought up a vehicle or a...
What Happens When Journalists Don't Probe? They Fail to 'Fulfill Their Obligation to the Public Interest as Counterweights in the American System.' (Watchdog)
"Always mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy, if possible."--Civil War General Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson's strategic motto. In war no less than in peace, the acid test for freedom of the press is the critical crossroads where secrecy...
Words & Reflections
Is it possible for truth to exist in journalism? This question resides at the core of "The Press Effect: Politicians and the Stories That Shape the Political World," a book written by Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Paul Waldman. Seth Effron, who for 18...