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A mulit-method evaluation of frictions between the normative ideal of transparency and journalistic praxis in health news

(2017)
Author
Organization
Abstract
1) title: A multi-method evaluation of frictions between the normative ideal of transparency and journalistic praxis in health news (2) abstract: Focusing on health journalism, this paper examines the extent to which the normative ideal of increased transparency towards news consumers with respect to sourcing and newsgathering routines, is workable in the newsroom. Firstly, drawing on the results of a large-scale content analysis of sources in print, online and broadcast health news in Belgian mass media (N=1998), this paper maps explicit source attribution and transparency of newsgathering methods. Secondly, these results will be contextualized within the backstage discourse of journalists and various stakeholders in the field of health, by means of interviews and ethnographic fieldwork. Results indicate that health news sources mainly consist of medical/academic experts (20,5%) and patients (18,6%). However, it is not always clear whether patients and experts were found via patient organizations, pharmaceutical companies, social media networks or contact info in press releases. Pharmaceutical companies, for instance, will likely refer to patients for whom the medicine was effective, or to an expert with a positive attitude towards their product. In this sense, certain sources may indirectly engage in agenda-building strategies that remain completely hidden for the audience due to a lack of transparency. In fact, while industry-related sources, for example, rarely function as explicit news sources (3,3%), our interviews do reveal that journalists regularly rely on pharmaceutical companies or patient organizations (who are often sponsored by the industry) to obtain contact info of patients and experts. Nevertheless, while – in theory – transparency could lay bare such processes of possible implicit agenda-building so that audiences can judge for themselves how to interpret the contribution of these sources(Chadha & Koliska, 2014; Phillips, 2011; Allen, 2008; Kovach & Rosenstiel, 2001), journalists sometimes encounter ad hoc obstacles that hinder the routinized incorporation of transparency rituals in their reporting (Karlsson, 2010). Privacy regulations, for example, can make it difficult for journalists to share with their audiences how and why a particular source was contacted. Our ethnographic fieldwork confirms that ethical, evaluative, and pragmatic constraints might stand in the way of increased transparency. This paper, therefore, explores the frictions that may arise between theoretical benefits of transparency and the achievability of such theoretical claims in the newsroom. In doing so, we aim to shed light on the underlying processes that shape the production of health news. (3) Authors: 1st, Stroobant Joyce, Dept. of communication sciences, Ghent University 2nd, Van den Bogaert Sarah, Dept. of sociology, Ghent University 3rd, Declercq Jana, Dept. of Linguistics, Ghent University 4th, Raeymaeckers Karin, Dept. of communication sciences, Ghent University
Keywords
health news, transparency, sourcing, biomediatization

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Chicago
Stroobant, Joyce, Sarah Van den Bogaert, Jana Declercq, and Karin Raeymaeckers. 2017. “A Mulit-method Evaluation of Frictions Between the Normative Ideal of Transparency and Journalistic Praxis in Health News.” In .
APA
Stroobant, J., Van den Bogaert, S., Declercq, J., & Raeymaeckers, K. (2017). A mulit-method evaluation of frictions between the normative ideal of transparency and journalistic praxis in health news. Presented at the ECREA Journalism Studies Section Conference 2017: “Changing audiences - changing journalism.”
Vancouver
1.
Stroobant J, Van den Bogaert S, Declercq J, Raeymaeckers K. A mulit-method evaluation of frictions between the normative ideal of transparency and journalistic praxis in health news. 2017.
MLA
Stroobant, Joyce, Sarah Van den Bogaert, Jana Declercq, et al. “A Mulit-method Evaluation of Frictions Between the Normative Ideal of Transparency and Journalistic Praxis in Health News.” 2017. Print.
@inproceedings{8522792,
  abstract     = {1) title: A multi-method evaluation of frictions between the normative ideal of transparency and journalistic praxis in health news

(2) abstract: Focusing on health journalism, this paper examines the extent to which the normative ideal of increased transparency towards news consumers with respect to sourcing and newsgathering routines, is workable in the newsroom. Firstly, drawing on the results of a large-scale content analysis of sources in print, online and broadcast health news in Belgian mass media (N=1998), this paper maps explicit source attribution and transparency of newsgathering methods. Secondly, these results will be contextualized within the backstage discourse of journalists and various stakeholders in the field of health, by means of interviews and ethnographic fieldwork.

Results indicate that health news sources mainly consist of medical/academic experts (20,5\%) and patients (18,6\%). However, it is not always clear whether patients and experts were found via patient organizations, pharmaceutical companies, social media networks or contact info in press releases. Pharmaceutical companies, for instance, will likely refer to patients for whom the medicine was effective, or to an expert with a positive attitude towards their product. In this sense, certain sources may indirectly engage in agenda-building strategies that remain completely hidden for the audience due to a lack of transparency. In fact, while industry-related sources, for example, rarely function as explicit news sources (3,3\%), our interviews do reveal that journalists regularly rely on pharmaceutical companies or patient organizations (who are often sponsored by the industry) to obtain contact info of patients and experts. 

Nevertheless, while -- in theory -- transparency could lay bare such processes of possible implicit agenda-building so that audiences can judge for themselves how to interpret the contribution of these sources(Chadha \& Koliska, 2014; Phillips, 2011; Allen, 2008; Kovach \& Rosenstiel, 2001), journalists sometimes encounter ad hoc obstacles that hinder the routinized incorporation of transparency rituals in their reporting (Karlsson, 2010). Privacy regulations, for example, can make it difficult for journalists to share with their audiences how and why a particular source was contacted. Our ethnographic fieldwork confirms that ethical, evaluative, and pragmatic constraints might stand in the way of increased transparency. This paper, therefore, explores the frictions that may arise between theoretical benefits of transparency and the achievability of such theoretical claims in the newsroom. In doing so, we aim to shed light on the underlying processes that shape the production of health news.

(3) Authors:
1st, Stroobant Joyce, Dept. of communication sciences, Ghent University
2nd, Van den Bogaert Sarah, Dept. of sociology, Ghent University
3rd, Declercq Jana, Dept. of Linguistics, Ghent University
4th, Raeymaeckers Karin, Dept. of communication sciences, Ghent University
},
  author       = {Stroobant, Joyce and Van den Bogaert, Sarah and Declercq, Jana and Raeymaeckers, Karin},
  keyword      = {health news,transparency,sourcing,biomediatization},
  location     = {Odense, Denmark},
  title        = {A mulit-method evaluation of frictions between the normative ideal of transparency and journalistic praxis in health news},
  year         = {2017},
}