For #health reporting, practice #journalism, not stenography

Health news can be hard to cover. Journals and universities spew out press releases every week touting the covering-medical-researchimportance of new findings. Many are not newsworthy, but the findings are presented in technical terms that can be meaningless to the uninitiated. Then your editor comes over waving a press release or a story from the  wire services or or The New York Times. Then the dreaded question — Why didn’t we have this?

So, get initiated. A few small steps can bring your reporting to a new level .The reinvigorated Health News Review spells them out and will help you answer that editor’s question. Read their tips and put them into practice. Like — don’t regurgitate the press release as a way of getting past your failure to understand the science. And don’t believe that self-defeating bullshit about how reporters are afraid of math.

Here, HNR points us to a little self-examination on the part of a BBC  reporter who covered the bad-luck and cancer story.

The paper’s bottom line wasn’t simple, but the message for me was: Science is complicated, and people care deeply about the biology of diseases that affect their loved ones and themselves. Distilling the story—with space constraints, with a desire for clear writing that will hold readers’ attention and help them understand—carries risks for scientists and for journalists. They are ones I hope never to forget—even if I err now and again.

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