Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Doctors and reporters

Doctors and reporters often have a love-hate relationship. Reporters need doctors when they need to do health related stories . They need doctors to provide them with stories of interesting patients ; new medical advances and technology ; and medical facts and background , so that they can present stories about health to their readers in the right context. However, they often find doctors very hard people to work with. For example, many doctors are very busy, and even though reporters work on time sensitive deadlines, doctors will often not respond to their calls or provide them with the information which they need when they need it . Many doctors find it difficult to explain complex medical concepts in simple terms , as a result of which many rookie reporters find they are often more confused after talking to the doctor, rather than before. Other doctors take a very patronizing attitude towards reporters , and assume they will not be able to understand anatomy and physiology , simply because these are complicated concepts which they took five years of medical school to master.

Doctors need reporters as well. Doctors understand that featuring in a newspaper or a magazine article is a great way of  enhancing their  credibility , and a favourable story can help to dramatically improve patient inflows. This is why media savvy doctors will employ PR agencies to ensure that positive stories about them are featured prominently in the press.

However, many good doctors are wary of talking to reporters , because they are worried that this may be misconstrued by critics , who may see it is a form of advertising. Other doctors know that dealing with the press can be a two-edged sword and while a positive story can be very good for their reputation , a negative story can create an enormous amount of harm.

Some doctors have learned the hard way that because reporters have very limited space , they will often end up editing and compressing the doctor's remarks , as a result of which what finally appears in print may have very little connection with the  original statements the doctor made. This kind of distortion will often cause harm to the doctors reputation amongst his colleagues, and once he has burned his fingers is very reluctant to talk to reporters again.

Another problem is that many reporters are more interested in doing negative stories , which are often sensationalistic , and tend to portray doctors in a negative light. No doctor wants to be quoted in this kind of story , because it ends up demeaning the entire medical profession. This is why doctors are often very reluctant to talk to reporters. Reporters will often misconstrue this understandable reluctance on the doctor’s part as being a conspiracy of silence , in which medical professionals gang up in order to protect one another.
Medical reporters and doctors need to learn to respect and trust each other . They need to create long-term relationships which they can tap into , so that readers have access to reliable medical information which they can trust.

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