Health research as news in South Africa: measuring the quality of health journalism at six daily newspapers

Stassen, Wilma (2016-12)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2016

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Quantitative analysis of reporting on new medical research by six South African newspapers The media are extremely influential in shaping public opinion about various issues. News reports on new medical research have the potential to impact on people’s health – not only by influencing individual behaviour, but also by informing health professionals and policy-makers about new medical findings. This study measured the standard of news reports on new medical research that were published in six daily newspapers in South Africa during 2014. Using a rating model developed by Health Media Review and based on ten criteria that characterise a good health news report, every relevant article published in that period was analysed and rated. The ratings of individual articles were combined to determine an average rating for each newspaper. Averages for each criterion highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of each newspaper’s reporting on new medical research. Additional information about the number, placement and origin of articles was also collected and provided insight into the value newspapers attach to reports on new medical research. The findings indicated that although the average scores varied widely between individual newspapers, definitive trends in high and low scoring criteria applied to all the publications. In other words, newspapers displayed similar strengths and weaknesses for certain criteria and there were definitive areas in which all newspapers either scored very well or fared poorly. In general the assessed newspapers fared well regarding some very important basic principles of science reporting, such as grasping the quality of evidence and avoiding disease mongering, but much more can be done to improve the standard of reporting on new medical research. The research indicated that journalists should engage more critically with new research by highlighting the benefits as well as the risks of a new medication or technology, adding comment from independent sources and ensuring that they only report on peer-reviewed research. Journalists should also do more to inform readers about the accessibility and true value of new research by discussing availability and costs and benchmarking it against other therapies.

AFRIKAANS OPSOMMING: ʼn Kwantitatiewe ontleding van verslaggewing oor nuwe mediese navorsing deur ses Suid-Afrikaanse koerante Die media is ontsaglik invloedryk wat openbare meningsvorming oor verskeie kwessies betref. Verslaggewing oor nuwe mediese navorsing kan ʼn impak op mense se gesondheid hê – nie net deur individuele gedrag te beïnvloed nie, maar ook deur nuwe mediese bevindings aan gesondheidsdeskundiges en beleidmakers bekend te stel. Hierdie studie meet die standaard van beriggewing oor nuwe mediese navorsing wat gedurende 2014 in ses Suid-Afrikaanse dagblaaie gepubliseer is. Deur middel van ʼn takseringsmodel wat deur Health Media Review ontwikkel is en gegrond is op 10 kriteria wat ʼn goeie gesondheidsartikel kenmerk, is elke artikel wat gedurende daardie tydperk gepubliseer is, ontleed en beoordeel. Die waarde van individuele artikels is saamgevoeg om ʼn gemiddelde waarde vir elke koerant te bepaal. Die gemiddeld van elke kriterium het die sterk- en swakpunte van beriggewing oor nuwe mediese navorsing by elke koerant blootgelê. Bykomende inligting oor die getal, plasing en oorsprong van die artikels is ook ingesamel en het insae gebied in die waarde wat elke koerant aan beriggewing oor nuwe mediese navorsing heg. Die bevindings het getoon dat ofskoon daar groot verskille tussen die gemiddelde waardes van die individuele koerante was, besliste tendense van hoë en lae tellings vir sekere kriteria op al die publikasies van toepassing was. Met ander woorde, die koerante het soortgelyke sterk- en swakpunte getoon wat sekere kriteria betref en daar was besliste areas waar alle koerante óf baie goed, óf swak gevaar het. Die koerante wat ontleed is, het oor die algemeen goed gevaar betreffende ʼn paar baie belangrike basiese beginsels van wetenskapsverslaggewing, soos om die gehalte van die bewyse te begryp en siekte-oordrywing te vermy, maar daar kan nog baie gedoen word om die standaard van beriggewing oor nuwe mediese navorsing te verbeter. Die navorsing het getoon dat joernaliste navorsing meer krities moet beoordeel deur die voordele én die risiko’s van ʼn nuwe medikasie of tegnologie uit te lig, kommentaar van onafhanklike bronne te bekom en slegs verslag te doen oor navorsing wat eweknie-beoordeling ondergaan het. Joernaliste moet ook meer doen om lesers in te lig oor die toeganklikheid en waarde van nuwe navorsing deur die beskikbaarheid en koste daarvan te noem en dit teen ander terapiee te meet.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/100225
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