Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Covering the flu and other health writing issues

A little news from the health writing world.
First, know that the Neiman Foundation has a great site for writing about the flu.

Also, take note of the debate over the NYTimes story on cancer screening and the American Cancer Society. This from the Knight Science Journalism Tracker, right down the road at MIT.

One day after New York Times reporter Gina Kolata created a “firestorm” of controversy with a front-page story saying the benefits of cancer screening “have been overstated,” the Times is back with another story–by another reporter–trying to clarify the issue.

The second story has a decidely different tone. “Most people believe that finding cancer early is a certain way to save lives,” writes Tara Parker-Pope. “But the reality of cancer screening is far more complicated.”

Sometimes one end of the paper sees differently than the other end. These things happen. On an August Sunday, one story in the Times suggested that unofficial Obama health advisor Tom Daschle was inappropriately pushing reforms that will benefit his private clients. Another said his absence is one reason health reform is stalling. They ran right next to each other.

The front page story on troubling conflicts of interest for Daschle continued on an inside page devoted to the health care debate. The left column featured entries from the “Prescriptions” blog, leading with this one:

“Any death watch for health care overhaul may be premature…If it does fail, here may be some of the commonly cited causes.” The first one is “The absence of Former Sen. Tom Daschle, Democrat deeply knowledgeable about health care and the Senate.”

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