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Health reporting in the mainstream media.

1. Introduction

The media has an instrumental function in public reactions to health matters. Public health has the thought-provoking undertaking of both employing the media to impact health practices while blocking the same effect where it stimulates unhealthy options. Health communicators should endorse swiftly and successfully the public embracing (Serban, 2012) of fundamental precautionary measures. For public health communicators to seek to attain their objectives, it is crucial to grasp how the mass media operates. The latter is an inadequate medium for the dissemination of scientifically exact information (Bratu, 2012) relative to health and medicine, predisposed to sensationalism, sins of noninclusion, and downright inexactness. Public health can have a more effective involvement with the mass media if there is more relevant grasp of how health news is created within media entities. (Leask et al., 2010)

2. Journalistic Practices in Health and Medical Frameworks

Declining newspaper circulation and network TV viewership have generated business judgments that reduced the resources for reporting of health news. Unfiltered public relations and advertising messages can have a place in health news narratives. The radical modifications in news consumption and the news business influence the audience's access to first-rate news and data about health and health schemes. Staff decreases are an evident indication of the diminishing resources achievable for health news reporting. Concentrating on the health movement, there have been notable dismissals, takeovers or cutbacks at outstanding news entities. Numerous health journalists have had to handle a significant degree of replacement among health editors. The decreases in qualified editorial staff bring about difficult tasks for reporters attempting to report more concrete health narratives. Granted the intricacies of the health movement, where journalists should be able to critically assess scientific research, analyze the aspects of policy schemes, and categorize intricate health care finance matters, suitable instruction is decisive. (Schwitzer, 2009)

The quality of journalism is a matter of interest for the health sphere as journalistic expertise has a relevant function in disseminating health and health care. First-rate journalism is a defense against both industry and state's (Nica, 2013) control over media content and schedules. Exactness, autonomy and a critical attitude are decisive for preserving a healthy media in the framework of effective influences. In democratic nations where the state is a chief funder of health services (Popescu, 2014), it is especially relevant that the audience receive accurate information, as they can have an important impact on the public health system via the ballot box and via direct involvement in deliberative processes. As the deprivation of journalism jobs influenced several first-rate newspapers, there is undoubtedly reason for concern about their impact on the subsequent quality of health coverage. (Jordens et al., 2013) Media texts and images are significant elements establishing identities, shaping positions and setting up representations of the world. The mass media is an influential partner in health promotion undertakings. The dialogues on furthering health and welfare in journalism indicate the health promotion culture in society. The latter is affected by cultural drivers, e.g. societal values, standards and convictions. Health promotion matters are presented in the media pursuing a general narrative fabric. Journalism is a polyphonic space where diverse participants try hard to bring their opinions into the public debate by competing for the media publicity. The cultural features of health backing are relevant in policy improvement and in evaluating strength of health promotion undertakings. (Aarva and Pakarinen Tampere, 2006)

3. Journalists' Difficult Tasks in Writing about Health News

If media content is progressively created by sources other than reporters, it will be more demanding for the audience to identify what commercial concerns (Popescu, 2013) lie behind the coverage. Journalists are instructed to be meticulous, autonomous and analytic, achieving investigative skills via education and experience, and establishing extensive webs of contacts. The experience, schooling and expertise of reporters are essential for revealing conflicts of interest (Nica, 2015) generated by industry influence and criticizing governments for policy judgments across all spheres (Ionescu, 2015a, b) that influence the health and welfare of individuals. (Jordens et al., 2013) It is not enough to be exact and clear when reporting on health news. Reporters must analyze and recount the possible conflicts of interest (Lazaroiu, 2014, 2013) among sources of health information and those who advance a new opinion or treatment, have a duty to inspect and cover citizens' demands as they strive to comprehend and handle the health-care system, and should compare between the extent of attention given news about medicine and the attention given news about health and the social drivers of health. When a public health case is covered, health journalists can have a function in swiftly providing relevant messages to the audience, acting as a constituent of the health supplier community. The media may be the most critical source of health information for the general audience, but health information in the media cannot replace personal medical guidance. (Schwitzer et al., 2005)

Public opinion on health matters is powerfully directed by the media. The mechanisms and operating procedures in health care journalism are processes that facilitate the best evidence to be revealed. Articles that narrate on medical topics normally include scarce information concerning the scientific methods and are unsuccessful in presenting the constraints of scientific outcomes. Medical coverage in the mass media should interest patients, their involved relatives, and any person who is attracted by such matters. Individuals typically have confidence in the standing of a particular journalistic brand reputation to assess the reliability of information. Among journalists, there is little skepticism that only a confined amount of methodological aspects should be incorporated when narrating a health care matter. (Wormer, 2011)

4. The Quality of Medical Coverage in the Mass Media

The thought-provoking character of the news setting may make it more problematic for health reporters to conserve the barrier that once prevailed between the editorial and advertising components of the business. There is a pervasive tendency in TV health news to classify as news some material which has been supplied by industry sources who long for publicity in news scheduling. The establishment of new media platforms creates chances for new approaches for health news to be circulated: health news on cable and the Internet does not acquire reporting as conspicuously as it does in the established and descending platforms of newspapers and broadcast network newscasts. Regardless of what becomes of news consumption, there will only be faithful and thorough analysis of health and health schemes if there are instructed journalists and editors with the time and resources to undertake their skills. The alterations in the news industry have considerable consequences for the sphere of health journalism and for fellows of the audience who have confidence in health reporters for information on personal health topics and on policy disputes. (Schwitzer, 2009) The continuing implication of professional reporters in rising digital platforms is relevant: most health professionals require the investigative expertise and widespread arrangements of the professional reporters, and they have not automatically advanced the significant capacity to both involve strong concerns and handle the effect that necessarily associates with doing so. Several current journalistic skills that have been shed by the print media are redeployed in rising online platforms that supply chances for first-rate journalism and in industry and government public relations positions that furnish a more dependable source of revenue. The quality of journalism is a serious matter within the health sphere and the health experts should take a concern in the rising media scene. (Jordens et al., 2013)

The most significant dissimilarities between print and online services are in the utilization of autonomous information sources, and the measuring of the advantages and the reporting of potential harms of novel medications. Journalists fulfill their duties if they report on particular essential matters when writing articles about new treatments, comprising the exact coverage of the comparative advantages, harms, and expenses of the medication and the degree to which their sources have connections with the producer. Journalists are eclipsing doctors as a generator of medical information. The medical industry produces large quantities of information for medical reporters to swiftly investigate daily. The media can have a special function in supplying a voice for individuals to communicate their experiences of illness and their interplays with the technologies of health. Instead of being much denigrated by health experts, the media should be regarded as an instrument that enables healing by furthering the recounting of narratives. (Schwitzer et al., 2005) Effective media performance is an indispensable component of public health practice. Successfully framing the message is essential to employing media to promote public health agendas. Framing furnishes the framework that shapes how the message is perceived (Serban, 2014) and how the performances and science displayed are construed. As established media have decreasing resources and fewer reporting staff, the audience tends to obtain public health information unedited and unfiltered online, via social media and email. Public health should employ a variety of schemes comprising a spectrum of media proposals to set up a setting that stimulates people to make healthy options. By establishing media skills, health departments become convinced of their capacity to frame messages and anticipatory in employing media successfully, converting interplays with the media into chances to enhance community health. (Brunner et al., 2011)

5. Conclusions

Time limitations and access to resources and technical proficiency are the critical matters for journalists in generating first-rate health and medical narratives. Their derivative character generally furthers uniformity in story choice and approach, and hinders a level of critical journalism. The downtrend of resources for mainstream media is jeopardizing the situation of the specialist reporter. Journalists should share the same interests as health experts regarding the complexity, exactness and social effect of their coverage. Journalists' manners of perceiving the world and their fabrics (Bratu, 2013) have a relevant relevance on story choice. The advancement of social media and the downturn of the established consumption models of mainstream news media raise difficult tasks and chances in how public health experts perform with the media. Public health communicators need to be calculated in how they operate with journalists. (Leask et al., 2010)

Received 2 February 2015 * Received in revised form 6 September 2015

Accepted 12 September 2015 * Available online 10 October 2015

GEORGE LAZAROIU

phd_lazaroiu@yahoo.com

Spiru Haret University

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Table 1 Tendencies in the content of health journalism generated by
the reductions in budget and staff that numerous newsrooms are
facing

* A stress on narratives that can be produced swiftly--frequently
indicating more articles on medical investigations, and
occasionally sacrificing on quality.

* Fewer detailed or intricate narratives, particularly about health
schemes, and more "hyper-local" narratives along with ones
diversely portrayed as lifestyle, customer, or news-you-can-use.

* Confidence in narratives created and distributed elsewhere, by
unconventional news sources.

* The impact of commercial concerns on health news, via video news
releases (VNRs), sponsored news components, free syndicated news
elements from health suppliers, and the effect of PR companies
driving the news.

Adapted from Schwitzer (2009)
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Author:Lazaroiu, George
Publication:American Journal of Medical Research
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Oct 1, 2015
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