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Journalist Fellows' Papers

Improving the Quality of Health Journalism: When Reliability meets Engagement

Reuters Institute Fellow's Paper

Health journalism has a bad reputation. One day something is good for you, and the next day it’s bad. In her research paper, Improving the Quality of Health Journalism: When Reliability meets Engagement, Heini Maksimainen, a freelance journalist from Finland, shows us how to get rid of confusing headlines and write reliable stories that get shared.

Heini interviewed several internationally recognized journalists and other health journalism experts about better ways of doing health journalism. They all offered the same advice: stop reporting the latest research findings and focus on building a bigger picture.

Heini explains how this contextualisation is done in a compelling way:   

‘A good health story not only delivers the facts but also puts them into context. It looks at the evidence and helps the reader to understand the significance of the new information. It questions the arguments used and evaluates their scientific validity. In other words, good health journalism takes a rigorous look at the existing research.

Despite the use of an evidence-based approach, health journalism does not have to be boring. This paper explains how to catch your readers’ attention on social media, convince them to read your story till the end and, finally, encourage them to share it with their friends.

One does not need to write confusing “this food causes cancer” headlines in order to attract people’s attention. A mixture of good storytelling and evidence-based reporting works too.’

As with all Fellows’ research papers, any opinions expressed are those of the author and not of the Institute.