The Ailing State of Healthcare News

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has unsettling new results (Kaiser Family Foundation, 11/24/08) from a “study of how the U.S. news media covered health issues over an 18-month period from January 2007 through June 2008.” The report “finds that news about health and health care made up less than four percent (3.6 percent) of all news content”–and that’s just the beginning:

The study also examines the type of health coverage in the news, and finds that the largest proportion (42 percent) of the stories were about specific diseases or conditions. Thirty-one percent of health news focused on public health issues, including potential epidemics and contamination of food and drugs. The smallest category of stories focused on health policy or the health care system (27 percent) of all health news, or less than one percent (.9 percent) of all news content.

When this .9 percent of coverage does occur, the results often are disastrous; see the FAIR magazine Extra!: “Media Miss Bigger Picture in Healthcare Debate: Ignoring ‘Mandate’ Plans’ Record of Failure” (5-6/08) by Roger Bybee