Examining the Craft: Seminar on Broadcast Health Reporting Begins Today
In a world of sound bites, 140-character reports and information overdose on the Internet, news about health often doesn't get all the airtime it deserves. The first session of a seminar for broadcast journalists will look at ways television, radio and multimedia journalists can boost coverage and depth in their reports.
Tonight's keynote speech by NBC's Robert Bazell talks about how to cover a pandemic threat responsibly. He also asks the question, "Is it Possible to Cover Complex Medical Topics in Two Minutes or Less?" Through the weekend, California Broadcast Fellows will examine social media and digital resources, health reform, investigative reporting on health and what it takes to get depth of coverage in a media marketplace that demands that writers be editors and producers all at once. A field trip will explore the black market in illegal pharmaceuticals, touring the small bodegas and mom-and-pop shops where they are sold to a largely immigrant clientele.
Michelle Levander, director of the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships at the USC Annenberg School for Communication, says that the pressures of being in a newsroom and on deadline make it difficult for journalists to feel that they are doing their best work. Specialty topics like health often take a hit when time and resources are short. The broadcast track of the fellowship program began last year to address the particular issues of working with sound and images on tight deadlines. Broadcast journalists have to tell compelling stories and need simple ways to cover complex topics, explains Levander. It's a tough job, especially now that the business of journalism is in such dire straits.
"In a time of cutbacks and uncertainties, one of the things that helps journalists not become demoralized is a sense of community," Levander says. "You can't underestimate the value of exchanges that happen in seminars like this."
You can join the conversation online throughout the weekend by commenting on posts. I'll be twittering at ReportingHealth; reply or tweet using the hashtag #cabroadcasthealth. You can also email your comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll include them in my live blog throughout the weekend.