Doctor-Journalists in Haiti: Which Comes First, Patients or the Story?
As marquee medical correspondents from American media pour in to Haiti, the question was bound to arise: in this earthquake-ravaged country, what should come first - the patients or the story?
A new Los Angeles Times story by Matea Gold probes that delicate balance today. Here's an excerpt:
Confronted with the overwhelming need in Haiti, medical doctors who serve as network correspondents have been toggling between roles: that of physician and reporter...
But some media ethicists said medical correspondents should consider forgoing their journalistic roles if they're going to participate in the relief effort. While reporters should help when they can save a life or prevent profound harm, "I think it's very hard for an individual who is professionally and emotionally engaged in saving lives to be able to simultaneously step back from the medical work and practice independent journalistic truth-telling," said Bob Steele, journalism values scholar at the Poynter Institute and journalism professor at DePauw University.
Health News Review publisher and journalism professor Gary Schwitzer also weighs in on his blog, walking readers through the ethics of doctors reporting in Haiti. The criticism of some of the doctor-correspondents has been harsh: as one ethicist wrote Schwitzer:
"It's worse than self-promotion. It's exploiting the suffering of Haitians for the PR goals of their employers. They should not be reporting on their own work. That's a classic PR tactic: using humanitarian aid as a public relations device, in order to drive up ratings for their network."
Should doctor-correspondents in Haiti or any other disaster zone have to pick a side and stay there? Share your thoughts in the comments below. You need to be a registered member of ReportingonHealth.org to leave a comment, so if you haven't joined yet, click here. It's easy, quick and free. You can follow us on Twitter, too, @ReportingHealth.