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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.

pam_1
8/18/2008 9:34:38 PM

Is that really much different than when my dr gives me a "sample" of medicine at his office? It is really an ad in disguise too. Three different meds would do what I need but he gets me started on this one since his friend the drug rep left them. Wow -- how nice. And now that I'll be on this medicine for life, guess which drug company will benefit.....the one his friend works for. Wonder why I don't trust too many people in the medical field any more?


mike_4
8/17/2008 7:27:00 PM

This is exactly what is wrong with mainstream media today. The public assumes a trust with the news that the reporting will be factual and disinterested ("It's on CNN, so it must be true"). Unfortunately, this is much less common than most people believe. Even more tragic in this case is that health care, another institution that assumes a trust with the public, is involved in these underhanded tactics.