Date of this Version
The study presented in this article looks at the reporting of eight issues of the Medical Journal of Australia in four Australian broadsheet newspapers: The Courier-Mail, the Canberra Times, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian. The purpose of the article is to explore and explain the translation of medical research into news reportage in major Australian newspapers. In her discussion of ideology and health reporting, Lupton (1992) notes that organisational structures in newsmaking can allow the voice of powerful elites (such as doctors) to be heard more strongly than that of others. In this study, published news stories are compared with the source articles in the Journal and the relationship between the medical professional and the journalists who report the stories is discussed in terms of the power given to the Journal and the authors of the articles. The transmission of the information from journal article to newspaper story is considered in terms of the gatekeeping chain and processes involved and the final message presented in the stories is analysed in terms of dominant topics and news themes.
The study finds there are serious shortcomings in the reportage of medical research in the mainstream press. These stem from an over-reliance on news agency copy, a tendency to confuse medical research with individual doctors' opinions, a deference to doctors as the primary authorities on health-related matters, an unqualified acceptance of their findings and a reluctance to provide readers with background material so that they may gauge the veracity of the research findings.