Exploring Human Potential

Tom Linden’s Postmortem on Physician Journalist Performance in Haiti

Posted on | March 27, 2010 | 1 Comment

Mike Magee

I’ve been involved in physician journalism for 30 years, at one point serving as president of the National Association of Physician Broadcasters (now the National Association of Medical Communicators) and authoring a Health Professional Media Code of Ethics in 1992.  A great friend and first class journalist through those years has been Tom Linden, who heads up UNC’s Medical and Science Journalism program in Chapel Hill, NC. I draw your attention to his recent post on physician reporting in Haiti. It well captures the challenges and pitfalls when a single professional bridges two careers.

His report appears at and is shared in full below:

“Since the earthquake in Haiti, television network news -– including ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN –- have featured their physician reporters in heavily promoted pieces. The reports raise questions about the role of physician reporters in covering disasters.

  • What’s the first duty of the physician reporter? To care for the injured or to report?
  • Can you do both? Can you do both well?
  • When does self-promotion get in the way of reporting?
  • Are shots and sound bites of injured Haitians being exploited for commercial purposes?
  • Are physician reporters requesting and getting consent of those whom they feature on camera?
  • Can a patient who is being treated by a physician journalist ever say “no” to being profiled when the reporter is the one providing care?
  • Are physician reporters and their production crews getting in the way of delivering care?
  • What about the journalist’s main job, namely, to tell the story without becoming the story?

Consider the following pieces that appeared on network news since the quake: (CONTINUE….)


One Response to “Tom Linden’s Postmortem on Physician Journalist Performance in Haiti”

  1. Jam Reyes
    March 28th, 2010 @ 6:32 am

    i have several relatives who were also vicitimized by the earthquake in Haiti. thank God that they were not seriously hurt. i hope and pray that Haiti would be able to recover soon from this disaster.

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