The quality of medical journalism has been widely criticized. As part of a larger evaluation study, we analyzed popular press coverage of eight topics selected by the National Institutes of Health for consensus development conferences in 1979 and 1980. Using periodical indexes to identify relevant articles, we analyzed the characteristics of 269 topical articles published in newspapers and magazines in the four years surrounding each conference and examined the role that the conference played in subsequent reporting. Most topics received widespread press interest that culminated around the time of each conference. Consensus findings were widely cited in articles that appeared after the conferences. Articles were mostly factual and balanced, relied on experts, and emphasized major themes covered by the conference. We conclude that the popular press can make an important contribution to the dissemination of new medical information.
Winkler JD, Kanouse DE, Brodsley L, Brook RH. Popular Press Coverage of Eight National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Topics. JAMA. 1986;255(10):1323–1327. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370100117028