Endocrine Abstracts (2015) 38 SK1.1 | DOI: 10.1530/endoabs.38.SK1.1

Why should we engage with the media?

Richard Quinton1,2


1Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle University, Newcastle-on-Tyne, UK; 2Newcastle-on-Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle-on-Tyne, UK.


Lord Reith famously characterised the BBC’s purpose as ‘to educate, inform and entertain’ (EIE). News and current affairs is a multibillion dollar industry that is rapidly expanding beyond traditional print, audio and vision formats, allowing the media to reach out even to the most isolated and disadvantaged populations worldwide. The media have an insatiable appetite for stories about medicine, healthcare and related scientific advances, because these strongly resonate with their audience.

Journalists operate within significant constraints, typically including income-insecurity, intense pressure to deliver features within tight deadlines, Arts-weighted educational background, and little time/space to engage with their audience. Time for background research is limited, so they need trusted sources to rapidly turn to for feedback or corroboration. They cannot devote time and energy to a story that is unlikely to have a concrete outlet, so their first expert point-of-contact may be key to deciding whether or not to pursue it further.

It is dispiriting when features appear to misrepresent reality in an area that is important to us, or where the views of alternative practitioners are given equal weighting to those of undoubted experts in the field – MMR debacle was a low-point in this respect. However, as physicians and scientists with expertise in Endocrinology we can hugely assist journalists in preparing their features more accurately and efficiently and they know it.

For the media, ‘hormones are sexy’ (and who are we to disagree?), but we can steer them away from sensationalism whilst retaining EIE value. The Society has retained a Media Officer since 1999, because it appreciates the importance of quality information relating to Endocrinology being shared with the public. By giving journalists a single ‘go to’ point of access to experts in the relevant area of Endocrinology, the Society is in a strong position to positively influence features-in-preparation.

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