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5 Comments

  1. 1

    Doctor Whom

    I’d guess if I was Media Watch I’d be hopping into Nick Miller too. But isn’t that just part of the same problem. Without taking away from the fact that Nick should have been a bit more sceptical and asked around a bit more surely a journo should be able to trust the word of a Professor of the specialty in which s/he is commenting.

    It’s not as if we are like the USA were anyone who has taught even one guest lecture on motivation at a TAFE College is called Professor – here at least a Professor has to have published a few peer reviewed paper and know a bit about the scientific method – surely?

    “Biggest breakthrough in 30 years in cancer” – yeah sure *yawn*

    I haven’t looked at the research but would I be being cynical to think that:

    (1) the paper isn’t published yet
    (2) therefore it hasn’t been replicated, or,
    (3) critically analysed by others

    At least it appears as if it was a human trial instead of the usual “breakthrough” that is unpublished, and a trial of a few overweight rats or rabbits.

    I think its time for Crikey to combine the journo , media health threads and do a Cancer Cure watch and count the number of items each paper has a “breakthrough” – or cancer cure in a year and award a prize for the most attempts.

    I suggest calling the award the This Day Tonight or Oprah award – or the more patriotic, fashionable and appropriate – Sr Mary McKillop Award.

    I have noticed that people “battle” or “bravely fight” cancer whereas people “suffer “from depression or sustain fractures. How come people don’t “bravely fight” against
    broken legs or ingrown toenails?

    Reply
  2. 2

    Ben Harris-Roxas

    It does seem a pity to single out Nick Miller, as like Melissa I’ve interacted with him on Twitter and he seems to be pushing health journalism into a more public/transparent sphere. At least he was before he moved to state politics.

    The reality of contemporary overstretched journalism means that PR will play a big role. I don’t think we’ll be able to stop reports of individual studies or wonder drugs, so how can we make them better? I know that it would be desirable for journos to add caveats to reports of study findings, but based on my discussions with family and friends I don’t think people are paying that much attention.

    I’ve noticed some reasonable reporting of meta-analyses on TV/radio in recent times. How could we promote these in a way that makes sense to the public? For example that they’re based on the findings of a lot of studies and could be worth paying more attention to? I guess the challenge is that there’s no PR machinery backing up the Cochrane Collaboration.

    Reply
  3. 3

    Doctor Whom

    How could we promote these in a way that makes sense to the public? For example that they’re based on the findings of a lot of studies and could be worth paying more attention to? I guess the challenge is that there’s no PR machinery backing up the Cochrane Collaboration.

    Ben it isn’t very sexy.

    Wheres the grabbing headline in

    ” Scientists re-affirm progress is a long slog”
    or

    “New expensive study confirms what we already know”

    “Cochrane announces we should look at evidence from many well designed studies before announcing miracles”

    or

    “Vatican announces its abandoning the sainthood strategy and handing miracles over to the Cochrane Collaboration”

    Reply
  4. 4

    William

    Well Doctor Whom, you know as well as I that health care isn’t that sexy…so it has long puzzled me why reporting of health has to be made so. It would help no end if we could escape the seemingly perpetual need for ‘boom’ or ‘bust’ medical journalism.

    Reporting of ‘miracle’ drugs still in Phase I/II (or worse animal models) that have a high chance of never reaching clinical practice and anecdotal reports of miraculous recoveries that statistically are never likely to be reproduced in another individual with in the same circumstances might make for good copy but simply mislead the public.

    Counter that with the fascination with medical catastrophe; rogue doc creates chaos in small regional centre, vaccination scare campaigns based on shaky evidence. All need reporting but this seems to be all we get.

    Where is the middle ground of balanced informative commentary and education? Medical journalists have a critical role in public health that to me seems completely squandered in the interests of commercial expediency.

    Reply
  5. 5

    Leo Braun

    “Why does all this matter? What impact does it have? How does it distort patient care, policy and funding? I would have been far more interested if some of these questions had been addressed”… http://blogs.crikey.com.au/croakey/2009/12/03/what-rights-do-cancer-patients-have/#comment-1615

    Reply

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