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The vision of journalists on the evolution of health communication and biomedicine analysed

The vision of journalists on the evolution of health communication and biomedicine analysed

In this new study, Gema Revuelta analyses the perception of specialized journalists on the transformations in health communication and biomedicine in the last twenty years in Spain.

19.07.2019

Imatge inicial

A new study by Gema Revuelta, director of the UPF Science, Communication and Society Studies Centre (CCS-UPF), analyses the perception of specialized journalists on the transformations in health and biomedicine communication in Spain.  The analysis was based on semi-structured interviews on health and/or science journalists on the evolution of their speciality in the last two decades. The work has been published in the journal “El profesional de la Información”, indexed in Social Science Citation Index, Q2 in communication.

The analysis has used the metaphorical concept of “ecosystem”. According to the respondents, in the last twenty years the main “environmental” change in the field of the public communication of health and biomedicine has been technological and is related to the expansion of internet. They agree, highlighting the advantage of having virtually all information accessible for both journalists and the public.

The analysis has used the metaphorical concept of “ecosystem”. According to the respondents, in the last twenty years the main “environmental” change in the field of the public communication of health and biomedicine has been technological and is related to the expansion of internet.

On the one hand, social networks are valued as being advantageous for the public, as it is more connected and more informed, but generally they tend to be seen as a threat due to having changed the distribution of the work of the journalist, giving more visibility to more sensationalist content.

In the professional field, they highlight the changes in working conditions and salaries associated with the general crisis of journalism and the financial crisis. “The assessment made by the specialist journalists themselves, is that they are threatened by insecurity, an increased workload, and immediacy, but nevertheless they do not feel worse than other sectors of journalism”, explains Gema Revuelta. “All respondents are satisfied with their profession and believe they have a socially relevant mission, as health journalism is more necessary than ever”, she adds.

The assessment made by the specialist journalists themselves, is that they are threatened by insecurity, an increased workload, and immediacy, but nevertheless they do not feel worse than other sectors of journalism.

One of the factors that are profoundly changing the work environment is the change in decision-making in newsrooms, which increasingly relies on the immediate response of the audience (clickbait) and positioning in the networks. Another sustained change has been the progressive entry of information on the Internet by the increasingly diverse and numerous “information source species”. On the one hand, expert sources (medical professionals, researchers, academia), that already existed at the start of the century, are now more visible and have professionalized their communication.

The emerging sources include civil associations (patients and consumers, mainly), non-expert sources that produce health information of all kinds. But “opportunistic source species” have also arisen that specifically spread false information or information lacking evidence (such as false news or pseudotherapies). This phenomenon, together with the change in the distribution of journalistic information aimed at clickbait and a greater impact in the networks, is already having effects on the quality of the content to which the public is most exposed.

In the words of Gema Revuelta: “Responsibility for the future development of the communication of public health and biomedicine lies with the sources and with the journalists, but especially with those responsible for the media and social networks”. “Finally, we must not forget that we citizens, through our information consumption behaviour, also bear some of the responsibility”, she concludes.

Reference article:

Revuelta-De-la-Poza, Gema (2018). “Journalists’ vision of the evolution of the (metaphorical) ecosystem of communication on health and biomedicine”. El profesional de la información, v. 28, n. 3, e280310. https://doi.org/10.3145/epi.2019.may.10.

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