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)

By Schraeder, Terry L. | Nieman Reports, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

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)


Schraeder, Terry L., Nieman Reports


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 by others. It is true that medical journalism, more than ever before, has become an important source of public health education and information. But it is also true that there are problems in the relationship between medical journalists and physicians, including their understanding of each other's professions.

The chasm between medical journalists and physicians appears mostly to be one of ignorance rather than conflicting interests or malice. But across this divide exist miscommunication, misunderstanding and the potential for misguided messages to the public. Rose-colored glasses may have altered my memory, but I do not recall the caustic attitudes of journalists toward doctors or the skeptical tenor of doctors toward journalists when I was a full-time journalist a decade ago. I remember more professional respect, objective analysis, and collaboration. Perhaps, during the embryonic years of mainstream medical journalism, the parties were more polite, if not forgiving and patient of each other.

The Chasm Widens

The worsening rift first struck me after I finished my medical internship. Working as a freelance journalist, I thought I would be welcomed back into the fold of the fourth estate. Instead, I felt like an outsider. Negative comments about the medical profession seemed commonplace. Likewise, I heard physicians speak of members of the press as if they were not to be trusted.

I listened to routine condemnation of medicine and journalism often framed with incomplete or inaccurate data. Instead of talking about story ideas and interesting science and medicine, journalists railed and postured as if they were protecting the public from a menace. It was as if in covering medicine, they were covering the enemy. Physicians dismissed medical journalists as being too uneducated to understand medicine or too busy to report on it accurately. They worried about the limitations of journalists and the motives of their editors while pointing to manipulation by outside interests. News reports were considered "abbreviated" at best and "sensational" at worst. Doctors accused the media of confusing their patients.

For me, the dispute came into focus at the Mayo Clinic's Medicine and Media Conference in 2002. One reporter charged that if journalists had not reported on the limitations of arthroscopic surgery that doctors would not have changed their practice of performing arthroscopy for osteoarthritis of the knee.

The journalist in me wanted to say, "Yes, mainstream medical journalists covered that research and informed the public." But the doctor in me wanted to say, "Doctors designed and conducted that research and a medical journal (The New England Journal of Medicine, July 11, 2002) published the study showing that arthroscopic surgery has no benefit over placebo for the treatment of certain types of osteoarthritis of the knee." A change in practice came about because of a collaborative effort instituted by doctors and conveyed to the lay public by journalists.

I began to wonder whether journalists and doctors are oblivious to the importance of their collaboration. And I worried that the negative attitudes they had about one another could threaten similar effective working relationships of the future. Had medicine become the enemy, as some medical journalists thought? Are most medical journalists unable to inform and educate the public accurately on important health matters, as some physicians believed?

In trying to answer these questions, I thought of numerous examples of outstanding work from both fields. In my journey of medical reporting and medical training, I've witnessed countless instances of commitment, intelligence and courage from physicians and medical journalists, all working under profound professional stresses. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

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)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.