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Medical journalism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Men's Health magazine, published by Rodale Press
Men's Health magazine, published by Rodale Press

Medical journalism is news reporting (as opposed to peer-review publication) of medical news and features. Medical journalism is diverse, and reflects its audience. The main division is into (1) medical journalism for the general public, which includes medical coverage in general news publications and in specialty medical publications, and (2) medical journalism for doctors and other professionals, which often appears in peer-reviewed journals.[1] The accuracy of medical journalism varies widely. Reviews of mass media publications have graded most stories unsatisfactory, although there were examples of excellence.[2][3] Other reviews have found that most errors in mass media publications were the result of repeating errors in the original journal articles or their press releases.[4] Some web sites, such as Columbia Journalism Review and Hippocrates Med Review, publish and review medical journalism.

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My name is Anthony Maddaloni, and I'm going to talk about how to become a medical photographer. Now, a medical photographer is a photographer that documents, essentially, facts for doctors, insurance companies, hospitals, patient rights advocates, and what you're really doing -- it could be anywhere from taking slides of literally accidents, potentially surgeries going on, and documenting them properly. And it's more of a technical type of photography than action-based photography. And one way you might want to break into this type of photography is to go to a medical school and see what a medical school...who they use, and assist. Like any other type of photography that I talk about, really, your first little foot in the door is finding someone who does it professionally and spend a day with them and see what it's like because it might not be anything what you think it's like or it might be even better than you think it is, and you can find out that you're suited for that type of photography. Now, medical photography is a type of photography where you're probably going to be using something...a digital camera. You want to make sure that you have a digital camera that can make a nice, a rather large file because you never know what these... These could be used in a court case, they could be used for lectures, med school. So you want to make sure you have the right equipment in order to do this type of photography. You wouldn't use cameras that you would, say, use for photojournalism for medical photography. You might be using a completely different type of set up. So that's one way. The other thing is to look at a lot of different types of medical photography out there. That could be medical journals, websites, and see, you know, is this something that I think I can be good at? Can I understand this type of composition? So those are some of the ways that I would become a medical photographer.


Medical journalism can come from a variety of sources including:

  • Television news programs
  • Newspapers
  • Internet websites
  • Scientific journals (those that report health- and medical-related news)


Most inaccuracies and speculations in news coverage can be attributed to several barriers between the scientific community and the general public that include lack of knowledge by reporters, lack of time to prepare a proper report, and lack of space in the publication.[3] Most news articles fail to discuss important issues such as evidence quality, costs, and risks versus benefits.[5] However, medical journalism is not only what is being commercialized and covered by news and mass media. There is also another extensive, more academic branch of medical journalism which is based on evidence. Evidence-based research is more accurate and thus it is a much more reliable source than medical news disseminated by tabloids. Medical journalism in this regard is a professional field and is often disregarded. There are also some medical journalism institutions that provide assistance to medical researchers to enable them to perform more reliable studies. A 2009 study found small improvements in some areas of medical reporting in Australia, but the overall quality remained poor, particularly in commercial human-interest television programs.[6]

More recently, the use of medical writers has become more popular as a way to produce medical literature that is clear, concise, and easier to read by the lay person.

The ICMJE, International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, is a committee that specifically deals with this kind of issue. This organization is committed to keeping medical reporting as true as possible by setting a standard known as URM, or the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts. These requirements do not only specify technical points such as bibliographical references and copyrights but also regarding ethical issues that may arise. For example, a submitter must disclose any personal or professional relationships that might even slightly have a bearing on the submitted work.

To this end, it is not uncommon for researchers to hold a press conference or interviews before publishing significant research to prevent any misconstruing of any data or methods.[7]

Conflict of interest

Between scientists and journalists

A large gap divides the scientific and journalist communities when it comes to deciding what is newsworthy. The ongoing nature of peer review in the scientific community makes it difficult to report interesting advances in scientific discovery. Consequently, this can create a focus on the negative aspects of medicine and science; causing journalists to report on the mistakes of doctors or misconstruing the results of research. However, journalists are not the only ones to fault as scientists have also broadcast their promising initial research to the media in attempts to secure future funding.[8] For example, research done by George Washington University in 1993 on in-vitro fertilization was warped by the media into a horrific foray into human cloning.

Due to corporate influence

Medical journalists also face challenges due to potential conflicts of interest. The pharmaceutical industry has sponsored journalism contests that carry large prizes in cash or in overseas trips. The Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) urges journalists to consider these contests carefully before entering, and most journalists avoid them. The Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, the supporting 501(c)(3) for AHCJ, does not accept industry funding. The National Association of Science Writers does not accept such funding. The changing nature of news media has caused more reporters to work freelance, outside of traditional news organizations such as major metropolitan newspapers, which may have created more ways to sidestep conflict-of-interest standards, and the rise of blogs has allowed nontraditional providers of news that lack these standards entirely.[9]

There is also the effect of direct corporate investments in research funding. While appreciated by scientists, this may cause conflicts with journalists that see this as profiteering.[8]


Sources for evaluating health care media coverage include the review websites Behind the Headlines, Health News Review, and Media Doctor (see External links), along with specialized academic journals such as the Journal of Health Communication. Reviews can also appear in the American Journal of Public Health, the Columbia Journalism Review, Ben Goldacre's "Bad Science" column in The Guardian, and others. Health News Review has published criteria for rating news stories.[10]

Effects on the general public

Although medical news articles often deliver public health messages effectively, they often convey wrong or misleading information about health care, partly when reporters do not know or cannot convey the results of clinical studies, and partly when they fail to supply reasonable context.[11] This can result in unrealistic expectations due to coverage of radical medical procedures and experimental technology.[3] Mass media news outlets can also create a "communications storm" to shift attention to a single health issue.[12] The lack of health knowledge in the general public creates a situation where a person can be easily swayed to a certain point of view that is cast in the manner in which information is reported. Consequently, this can create a potentially unhealthy focus on an illness that in actuality is relatively rare.

Medical journalism can also influence an individual's quality of health care. Due to the relative ease at which information can be obtained on the internet, many people will now question doctors on new medications and treatments for their conditions. In more extreme cases, people will compare their symptoms, real or imagined, to various illnesses in attempts to diagnose themselves.[13] There have been a few recent studies that have tried to explore the availability of health information as complement to health care or as a substitute yet no direct relationships have been found. This is most likely caused by a lack of knowledge or a lack of the ability in the individual to apply the health information once found resulting in seeking health care.


Only a handful of universities and institutes globally offer undergraduate, postgraduate or diploma level programs related to medical journalism.[citation needed] Boston University via its College of Communication conducts a Science and Medical Journalism program leading to a Master of Science degree.[14]

See also


  1. ^ Medical Journalists' Association (UK)
  2. ^ Schwitzer G. (Jul 2014). "A guide to reading health care news stories". JAMA Intern. Med. 174 (7): 1183–6. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.1359. PMID 24796314.
  3. ^ a b c Larsson A, Oxman AD, Carling C, Herrin J (2003). "Medical messages in the media—barriers and solutions to improving medical journalism". Health Expect. 6 (4): 323–31. doi:10.1046/j.1369-7625.2003.00228.x. PMC 5060204. PMID 15040794.
  4. ^ Schwartz LM, Woloshin S, Andrews A, Stukel TA (Jan 27, 2012). "Influence of medical journal press releases on the quality of associated newspaper coverage: retrospective cohort study". BMJ. 344: d8164. doi:10.1136/bmj.d8164. PMC 3267473. PMID 22286507.
  5. ^ Schwitzer G (2008). "How Do US Journalists Cover Treatments, Tests, Products, and Procedures? An Evaluation of 500 Stories". PLOS Med. 5 (5): e95. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050095. PMC 2689661. PMID 18507496.
  6. ^ Wilson A, Bonevski B, Jones A, Henry D (2009). Gluud LL (ed.). "Media Reporting of Health Interventions: Signs of Improvement, but Major Problems Persist". PLOS ONE. 4 (3): e4831. Bibcode:2009PLoSO...4.4831W. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004831. PMC 2652829. PMID 19293924.
  7. ^ "ICMJE Uniform Requirements of Manuscripts". International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Archived from the original on 11 November 2012. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  8. ^ a b Nelkin, Dorothy (June 1996). "An Uneasy Relationship: The Tensions between Medicine and the Media". Lancet. 347 (1905): 1600–1603. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(96)91081-8. PMID 8667872. S2CID 23627579.
  9. ^ Greene J (2009). "Pharma's influence on the fourth estate: health care journalists' conflicts also scrutinized". Ann Emerg Med. 53 (3): 18A–20A. doi:10.1016/j.annemergmed.2009.01.010. PMID 19244660.
  10. ^ "How we rate stories". Health News Review. 2008. Archived from the original on January 10, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-26.
  11. ^ Dentzer S (2009). "Communicating medical news—pitfalls of health care journalism". N Engl J Med. 360 (1): 1–3. doi:10.1056/NEJMp0805753. PMID 19118299.
  12. ^ Carducci, Annalaura; Simona Alfani (2011). "Mass media health information: Quantitative and qualitative analysis of daily press coverage and its relation with public perceptions" (PDF). Patient Education and Counseling. 82 (3): 475–478. doi:10.1016/j.pec.2010.12.025. PMID 21288683.
  13. ^ Suziedelyte, Agne (August 2012). "How does searching for health information on the Internet affect individuals' demand for health care services?" (PDF). Social Science & Medicine. 75 (10): 1828–1835. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.07.022. PMID 22884947.
  14. ^ "Boston University Website". Retrieved 23 February 2015.

External links

This page was last edited on 22 April 2023, at 02:32
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