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Medical Scientists and Health News Reporting: A Case of Miscommunication

Miriam Shuchman, MD; and Michael S. Wilkes, MD, PhD
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From Weekend Edition, National Public Radio, Washington, D.C.; State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York; and University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California. Acknowledgments: The authors thank Margaret A. Chesney, PhD, and Donald A. Redelmeier, MD, for reviewing the manuscript. Requests for Reprints: Miriam Shuchman, MD, 49 Douglas Crescent, Toronto, Ontario M4W 2E6, Canada. Current Author Addresses: Dr. Shuchman: Department of Psychiatry, State University of New York at Buffalo, Erie County Medical Center, 11th Floor, 462 Grider Street, Buffalo, NY 14215. Dr. Wilkes: University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Medicine, B-537 Factor Building, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1736.

Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians

Ann Intern Med. 1997;126(12):976-982. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-126-12-199706150-00008
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The public is poorly served by the coverage of medical science in the general press.Scientists and physicians blame the press, claiming that journalists are careless in their reporting, subject to competitive pressures, and ignorant of the scientific process. Journalists accuse the medical community of limiting access to information and erecting barriers to the public dissemination of medical research. In many areas of health news reporting, the underlying problem is an interactive dynamic that involves scientists and journalists. Both parties share the responsibility for accurate communication to the public. This report suggests ways to improve health news reporting, focusing on four problem areas: sensationalism, biases and conflicts of interest, lack of follow-up, and stories that are not covered.





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