Well, what a surprise. An analysis of Australian media coverage of media matters has found that commercial current affairs television does by far the least satisfactory job. A group of academics, operating as Media Doctor, have published the findings of their media analysisDoes It Matter Who Writes Medical News Stories? in the current issue of PLoS Medicine.
In the belief that the media can influence health literacy and health-seeking behaviours, they examined whether experienced specialist health reporters write better stories than other categories of journalists. In their summary they conclude:
We compared the quality of stories written by specialist and non-specialist journalists, and those sourced from major news organisations, in Australia from 2004–08.
We found that it does matter who writes news stories that cover the benefits and harms of health care interventions. Stories written by specialist health journalists working for a single media outlet scored more highly than those written by less experienced writers.
Our findings are important because this source of health literacy is currently under pressure as falling revenues threaten the future of the traditional media.
The mean scores were highest for the broadsheet newspapers and lowest for the human-interest current affairs programs. The difference between the average scores of the highest and lowest performing media outlets was 26.1% (95% CI 19.9%, 32.2%). The variation in unadjusted scores between the highest and lowest performing categories of journalists was less — a range of 15.5% (95% CI 11.2%, 19.8%)