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Health-Beat Journalists Should Be Certified

August 04, 2005
Trevor Butterworth
Watching television coverage of health news "an unhealthy act," says professor

Here's an alarming fact: you have to be certified in order to read the weather forecast on television, but you don't need any scientific qualifications to report health news.

In a devastating indictment of the quality of health reporting on television, Gary Schwitzer, director of the Health Journalism graduate program at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication, calls for "voluntary certification" of health news reporters and journalists. This would mean learning "how to scrutinize claims and evaluate the quality of evidence presented by sources."

Scwitzer also argues that reporters need to be more skeptical of researchers pushing an agenda.

"Single-source stories are the rule, not the exception, in health news stories. Single-source stories are a bad idea in any form of journalism. In health news it's malpractice. There are so many vested conflicts of interest among the promulgators of health news and information today, it simply does not suffice to only have one source."

To read the full interview, go to WNYC's On the Media.