Here you find information about the Medien-Doktor project in English.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to send an e-mail: marcus.anhaeuser (at) tu-dortmund.de

Latest news

Starting in May 2013, www.medien-doktor.de also checks the quality of media reporting on environmental issues and press releases about medical and environmental topics. Here you find more information in English concerning the recently started ‘Medien-Doktor EnvironmentalNewsReview’. Information about the ‘Medien-DoktorPR-Watch” is coming soon!.

 

The Medien-Doktor Project

GruppenfotoDubious miracle worker or genuine medical breakthrough? Swine flu or just “media flu”? And what about the quality of media reporting on medical issues in Germany in general? Many media users ask themselves which reports on medicine and health they can really trust and which they can’t. The “Medien-Doktor”, or German Health News Review, is a unique German monitoring project that seeks to find answers to these questions.

The portal became fully operational in November 2010. Examples of medical reporting are selected almost daily and evaluated by experienced science and medical journalists. They base their evaluations on internationally tested quality criteria that are refined in the context of the project. On this basis, every story is graded and an in-depth analysis of its strengths and weaknesses is presented on www.medien-doktor.de. Research tips and tools for journalists complete the portfolio.

A team of experienced science reporters, including many members of WPK and VDMJ, supported the “Medien-Doktor” during the start-up phase.

 

The Idea

The idea for developing the “Medien-Doktor” in Germany was sparked by the observation that there were enormous differences in reporting on medical themes: excellently researched pieces on the one side were sometimes just a click or page away from stories completely devoid of quality consciousness on the other.

The project seeks to establish transparency with regard to quality standards in medical reporting and open them up for discussion. Locating the project at the University in Dortmund guarantees the greatest possible degree of independence in reviewing stories. The results are systematically evaluated in the Department of Science Journalism and fed back to the journalism community.

Nominated for Grimme Online Award

From amongst some 2,100 websites, the “Medien-Doktor” (together with 25 other platforms) was nominated for the 2011 Grimme Online Award“The Commission sees the nomination of the still young medien-doktor.de portal that (…) fills a publishing gap as explicit encouragement to continue along the same path.”
The Grimme jury: “What differentiates the “Medien-Doktor” from the usual run of media criticism is its standardised review criteria and its pool of reviewers including many experienced journalists.”

The Criteria

The catalogue of criteria used by “Medien-Doktor” to review print, radio, TV and internet reporting has already been employed by similar projects like HealthNewsReview.org (USA) and Media Doctor (Australia, Canada, Hong Kong). It is based on the conviction that journalists should offer their audiences (and, in this case, particularly patients and doctors) reliable, important information – in an intelligible form.

In good medical journalism, for example, the benefits of a therapy are presented in clear figures and the risks and side-effects are described; it draws on more than just press releases or the author of the research paper; it reports on alternatives, and notes when a drug will become available, explains whether it is really new and whether it is covered by health insurance schemes. Good medical journalism is coherently written and draws relevant connections; it is vital and exciting but does not generate unfounded hope, let alone fear.

 

The Aims

One aspect is very important to the creators of www.medien-doktor.de: it is not there to tear journalists to bits, a pastime which has become popular on many blogs. Rather, the aim is to draw greater attention to positive examples and use every review to recall what good medical journalism is all about. The “Medien-Doktor” wants to help people classify and understand medical results.

At a time of profound structural change in the media system, the project seeks to support journalists and also offer them tools for constructing pieces of good medical journalism. In some editorial offices, constructive criticism from well-informed, respected colleagues could even provide an argument in the campaign for improving working conditions – this, at least, is something the “Medien-Doktor” team hopes for.

 

The Project

The project is located at the Department of Science Journalism at TU Dortmund University and funded with the assistance of the Science Journalism Initiative (Initiative Wissenschaftsjournalismus). The insights gained from Dortmund’s monitoring of medical reporting are not only channeled into research into the quality of journalism but also into journalism training and continuing education projects – for example, the “newspaper and broadcast critique” which the Science Journalism Initiative offers to editorial offices. Leading journalists’ associations, such as the WPK (German Science Journalists’ Association) and VDMJ (Association of German Medical Journalists), support the project. As of 2012, the “Medien-Doktor” is seeking additional partners interested in promoting sustainable quality assurance in medical reporting both morally and financially.

Science Journalism Initiative – a joint programme of the Robert Bosch Foundation, the “Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft” (Donors’ Association) and BASF SE, conducted at TU Dortmund University.

 

References

Holger Wormer: Improving Health Care Journalism“ (PDF)
From: G. Gigerenzer, J.A.M. Gray: Better Doctors, Better Patients, Better Decisions: Envisioning Health Care 2020“. Strüngmann Forum Report, Bd. 6, MIT Press (2011).

Marcus Anhäuser, Holger Wormer: „A question of quality: Criteria for the evaluation of science and medical reporting and testing their applicability”
From: Quality, Honesty and Beauty in Science and Technology Communication. PCST 2012 Book of Papers.