Journalism 101 for scientists
The reporter was the one offering information during the recent J. Antony Swartz-Lloyd Media Grand Rounds that highlighted Education Week at BIDMC.
Veteran reporter Carey Goldberg, now the co-host of WBUR's CommonHealth blog also offered advice on dealing with the media to those who gathered in honor of Tony Lloyd, the long-time Director of Public Affairs at Beth Israel Hospital and BIDMC, who stepped down in 1999.
Mitchell T. Rabkin, MD, Shapiro Institute Distinguished Scholar, noted in his program introduction, "Tony taught me a great deal about the media. That's one of the reasons why we wanted to honor him with this lecture series [designed to] help medical staff and nursing staff better understand their relationships with the media."
"When it comes to science and medicine you can't get too basic," said Goldberg, a former health/science writer at The Boston Globe. "Digest your material to the level of a 10th grader. Spoon feed the journalist."
Goldberg provided the audience with some key insights, becoming what she called "a media specimen" for the scientists, doctors and other medical professionals.
"Remember, the [medical and scientific] information that you're describing to a reporter is probably brand new to him or her," she explained. "Since science and medicine are complicated, there's a good chance the reporter is cognitively challenged by what you're telling him, and he's also probably working on a tight deadline."
That's why she says simplifying your explanation and descriptions are so important. She also suggests that you send the reporter links to references and other background materials about the subject.
She also reminds scientists and medical professionals that it's okay to ask the reporter if you can review your quotes before the story is published. "I'd suggest that you negotiate this point up front with the reporter [at the time of the interview.]"
But, what should the doctor or researcher do if the story is printed and it's incorrect? "Ask the reporter and the editor to run a correction," said Goldberg, pointing out that Web content, such as blogs, is especially easy to correct.
Goldberg's central lesson for the audience was gleaned from her own media training prior to a book publicity tour.
"Remember, journalists will always look for emotion. They will always want to tell the story from the human perspective." So, as much as possible, she reminded the audience to share patient anecdotes or describe their work from the perspective of the patient, rather than in purely scientific and medical terms.