Summer 2003

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 doing her residency in internal medicine, she uses these experiences to highlight the problems between journalists and doctors and ways to close the widening gap of distrust. She is convinced that only when they “understand the other’s professional training, education, deadlines, responsibilities, codes of ethics, and internal stresses” will the chasm narrow. – Melissa Ludtke, Editor

Medical Reporting
Introduction
By Melissa Ludtke, Editor
A Chasm of Distrust in Medical Reporting (1 comment)
A doctor who was a medical journalist tries to understand why journalists don’t trust their sources and sources don’t trust reporters.
By Terry L. Schraeder
Breaking the Medical Malpractice Code of Secrecy (1 comment)
At The Burlington Free Press, a reporter persists in unearthing stories that doctors don’t want told.
By Stephen Kiernan
Using Technology to Uncover Medical Stories
With computer-assisted reporting: Think small and big.
By Chris Adams
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.
By Barbara Walsh
Investigating What Goes Wrong in Medicine
After 30 years of doing this, a reporter passes along lessons—some serious, some not so serious.
By Paul Lieberman
Portraits of the Living With the Dead
A photographer documents the transition from medical student to physician.
By Meryl Levin
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.
By Neil Munro
Reporting the Cloning Story: From Hype to Healthy Skepticism
Journalists can produce stronger stories by scrutinizing the motives, finances and personalities of researchers.
By Aaron Zitner
Transforming Medical Science Into Public Policy
An editorial writer describes her role in helping readers understand the issues.
By Barbara Egbert
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.
By Kathleen Rutledge
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.’
By Philip J. Hilts
Acting as Watchdog on Cancer Research
A small newsletter can create big waves with its long and complicated stories.
By Paul Goldberg
The Emotional Toll of Reporting on a Cancer Trial (1 comment)
‘I’d essentially planned to do a story about dying people with no real hope of a cure acting as guinea pigs.’
By Jenni Laidman
‘Living With Cancer’
A newspaper links forces with TV and radio to inform the community about the causes and consequences of this disease.
By Lois Wilson
Weighing Anecdotal Evidence Against the Studies
A reporter explores connections between increased rates of cancer and the changing lifestyle of Alaska Natives.
By Diana Campbell
Documenting Native Approaches to Wellness (2 comments)
With images and words, a journalist tells the story of a tribe’s effort to prevent and control Type II diabetes.
By Mary Annette Pember
Constraints on China’s Coverage of SARS
For a variety of reasons, neither the government nor the press handled the medical crisis well.
By Philip J. Cunningham
Medical Reporting In a Highly Commercialized Environment
A family doctor prescribes eight guiding principles for accurate and fair coverage of research findings.
By John Abramson
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.
By Mervin Block
Tips for Writing Medical News
A Doctor Examines a Journalist’s Work
As she moves between being a doctor and a medical journalist, loyalties are divided.
By Perri Klass
Critical Tools for Medical Reporting
A medical editor’s book provides advice and guidance for journalists.
By Ragnar Levi
Helping Reporters Play the Medical Numbers Game
A journalist reminds us about how tricky putting ‘facts’ into perspective can be.
By Lewis Cope
What makes a good medical reporter?
From the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing
Learning To Be a Medical Journalist (9 comments)
‘If you already are a skilled reporter and writer, the transition to medical journalism should be relatively easy.’
By Thomas Linden
Medical Journalism Training (1 comment)
Words & Reflections
Introduction
By Melissa Ludtke, Editor
What Stands Between the Press and the Truth?
When it comes to coverage involving politics, the answer seems to be a lot.
By Seth Effron
Challenging the Charge of Liberal Bias in the Media
An editor’s response: Understand our biases, act as journalists, be a watchdog of the powerful.
By Mike Riley
Media Companies and the Internet (1 comment)
We know there’s a problem, what’s the solution?
By David DeJean
‘Small Pieces Loosely Joined’
By David DeJean
Forty Years of Reporting the Nation’s News
Bob Schieffer reflects on stories he’s covered and the way journalism has changed.
By Bill Wheatley
Journalist’s Trade: Coverage of War
Introduction
By Melissa Ludtke, Editor
Blurring the Line Between Journalist and Publicist
For things to change, the Washington press corps needs to lead the way.
By Paul McMasters
What Should News Organizations Do for Access?
Revelations by CNN’s Eason Jordan spark a debate among journalists.
What Happens When Journalists Don’t Probe?
They fail to ‘fulfill their obligation to the public interest as counterweights in the American system.’
By Murrey Marder
Are Journalists Asking the Right Questions?
‘Too many of my sources of information have let me down.’
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?
By Michael Getler
Examining Press Coverage of the War
‘What is lacking in so much of the instantaneous coverage is verification and historical context, the things that turn coverage into reporting.’
Readers Question Editors’ Judgments About War Coverage
‘Where were these stories when, over the last year, Bush was building up his “case” for war?’
Excerpts from a column by Michael Getler
The Press and Freedom
A radio journalist spots disturbing trends in how the White House press corps reports on the Bush administration.
Excerpts from an op-ed by Bob Edwards
Presidential Secrecy and Reporters’ Efforts to Breach It
A former White House correspondent suggests ways to ask more probing questions.
By Sam Donaldson
In War, Journalists Become Part of the Problem
‘It was horrifying, confusing, numbing and nothing like the myth I had been peddled.’
Excerpts from a lecture by Chris Hedges
The Safety of Journalists Who Cover Wars
‘Communications have changed everything—on the battlefield and at home.’
Embedding Reporters on the Frontline
With regained public trust, watchdog reporting might be more welcomed for its role in protecting democracy.
By Nancy Bernhard
Embedded Reporting
Is objectivity an acceptable casualty of this kind of reporting?
By Dan Kennedy
The View From Inside the Military
Embedding of journalists was an experiment. How did it work?
Blogging the War Away
A media critic wages his own media war against the coverage of the war.
By Danny Schechter
Using a Weblog to Track War Coverage
‘If some of the embedded U.S. journalists are showboating, the anchors home are cheering them on.’
Getting a More Complete War Story
Arab + U.S. television = more accurate war coverage.
By Rami G. Khouri
The Arab Press
‘Like their audience, the Arab world’s newspapers are angry, nuanced, multifaceted, passionate and argumentative.’
Excerpts from an article by Rami Khouri
Televised War Coverage in Namibia
‘It is evident that objective journalism has been lost in the “us” and “them” scenario ….’
By Gwen Lister
Deciding What Images to Show
‘If a fact is ugly, should it be kept at a distance from readers and viewers?’
Keeping an Eye on Thailand’s Press
A media column tracks coverage and commentary about the war in Iraq.
By Songpol Kaopatumtip
Receiving Very Different News
‘It’s like you are talking about two different worlds.’
War Coverage in the Chinese Media
The Chinese people saw changes in the way news of this war was brought to them.
By Yuan Feng
German Skepticism About America’s Intent and Goals in Iraq
One headline called it ‘The worst invasion of Baghdad since the Mongols.’
By Martin Gehlen
Watchdog Reporting
Introduction
By Melissa Ludtke, Editor
A Lengthy Legal Battle to Gain Access to Public Documents
A Delaware newspaper tries to obtain data about the state’s criminal justice system.
By Deborah Henley
The Arguments: The News Journal v. DELJIS
Reporting Holds Michigan’s Child Welfare System Accountable
At the Detroit Free Press, a watchdog reporter sees the impact of his stories.
By Jack Kresnak
Curator’s Corner
Newspaper Editors Confront Errors
‘We learn from one another’s mistakes.’
By Bob Giles
Nieman Notes
Photographer Gordon Parks Turns 90 (1 comment)
‘Gordon is our lamplighter, and I love him for that.’
By Lester Sloan