Why Health Journalism Shouldn’t Be a Popularity Contest

In response to criticism about TV health journalists by Gary Schwitzer and myself (in a previous post), ABC news health reporter Richard Besser asked his followers on Twitter:

What do you think? Did I get it wrong?

So Besser gives the appearance of being open-minded, and who could find fault with that? But here’s the problem: health journalism shouldn’t be a popularity contest. I guess if you live in the world of television, where you live and die by the ratings, then this might seem like a good way to assess what you do. But it’s not. It’s dangerous. It doesn’t lead to the slippery slope. It is the slippery slope.

Instead of asking his viewers, Besser should ask himself if he got it wrong. He should engage the issues raised by Schwitzer and myself and he should apply the intellectual training he presumably received in medical school, along with the basic, common sense principles of journalism.

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