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Cancer Control Research

5R01CA104721-03
Schwartz, Lisa M.
IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF NEWS REPORTING ON MEDICINE

Abstract

DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Context -- The news media has a powerful influence on public perceptions about health. Several studies, however, have raised questions about how well the press covers medical issues, pointing out errors and misleading statistical presentations. Such problems are not surprising. Journalists generally receive no training in how to interpret or discuss medical research. And medical journals, the most common source of stories, currently do little to make the journalist's job easier. Long-term objectives -- To help journalists to better cover medical research and to help improve communication between journalists and the medical journals, we will: (1) Develop and evaluate news report quality criteria for media reporting on medical issues; (2) Develop and evaluate press guides to facilitate and standardize communication between medical journals and journalists; (3) Develop and evaluate a primer to train journalists in how to interpret and report on medical research. Specific Aims Aim I: Conduct formal psychometric testing to establish the validity, reliability and sensibility of the news report quality criteria as an outcome measure for subsequent studies in Aims II and III. Aim II: Work with 4 major medical journals (Ann Intern Med, BMJ, JAMA, and J NaU Cancer Inst) to refine the press guide and develop a process for its implementation. We will evaluate how journalists respond to the press guide and conduct randomized trials to see whether press guides improve the quality of reporting (using Aim criteria). Aim III: Develop a primer for journalists with practical advice on how to interpret and report on medical research. We will assess the effect of the primer in a randomized controlled trial involving staff newspaper healthcare journalists. The main outcome measures will be whether the primer improves critical reading skills and the quality of reporting (using Aim I criteria). Significance -- this project will help by developing methods to evaluate media coverage of medical issues and by promoting balanced health messages in the media. Balanced news coverage will help patients (and their physicians) better understand the importance of research findings and the benefits of medical interventions -- in turn, this will help to promote informed decision making.


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