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Media and Health Providers Clash Over Ethics

by Rachel Levitt

Tags: Media, media ethics, health care, health care journalism, journalism, Society of Professional Journalists, SPJ, Association of Health Care Journalists,

It’s not often that someone is awarded for resigning, but that's precisely why Glen Mabie received this year's Ethics in Journalism Award from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). Mabie, the former news director of a TV station in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, stepped down in January after the station made a deal with Sacred Heart Hospital to run specific stories about the facility’s employees and services.

The Association of Health Care Journalists and the SPJ warn that these stories violate media ethics and unfairly influence the public, writes Trudy Lieberman for the Columbia Journalism Review. People are “unaware that the five o’clock news story on the latest imaging device used on patients at a local hospital—perhaps reported by the TV anchor—is really an ad in disguise.” There is no objectivity: when a facility is paying for the coverage, no alternative viewpoints are allowed.

Lieberman’s rundown of similar incidents in the media shows that they are more common than one would think or hope. She also points out that biased health reporting perpetuates the health care industry’s obsession with obtaining expensive equipment instead of focusing on patient education and care.