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Who can you trust? Medical news, the public and what reporters think about public relations sources

Volume 18, Issue 2

October, 2012

From page
102
to page
117
Furlan, P. (2012). Who can you trust? Medical news, the public and what reporters think about public relations sources. Pacific Journalism Review, 18(2): 102-117.
Author(s): Patrizia Furlan
Publication date: 
October, 2012

Research on the effects of medical news stories on the public has demonstrated that consumers make decisions about personal health care options and choices sometimes exclusively based on stories published by the media. Given the news media’s ability to set the agenda for what the lay public, government policymakers and even health professionals consider topical and important, medical news reporting has an added sense of responsibility to be timely, reliable and accurate. Public relations practitioners involved in medical promotion can be the behind-the-scenes providers of information and access to important sources in medical news production. This relationship has been an emerging area of research focus in the US but has received scant attention in Australia. Just as in other areas of reporting, the relational dynamics between reporter and PR source are often conflicting and contradictory. This article will explore the views of 25 Australian medical reporters in a mixed method study on their relationship with public relations practitioners through the construct of trust. The findings indicate that most medical reporters, although acknowledging the increasing influence of public relations on medical news production, generally do not trust public relations sources, especially those in the corporate sector. However, if ongoing PR sources are considered reliable and trustworthy, then the relationship can become one of trust and interdependence.