Cancer in particular gets lots of media attention, as it should given the number of people who suffer and die from the disease every year. But is it accurate media attention?
This study suggests not, at least when it comes to the news. Only the abstract is available (I bet Gregory House gets access for free). But what's really interesting is not that the news media isn't as accurate as it could be -- surprise -- but the direction of that inaccuracy. Stay with me here. It's kinda sorta fascinating.
The content analysis of cancer coverage by eight newspapers and five magazines reaches a counter-intuitive conclusion. News reports often discuss aggressive treatment and survival, according to the study, but rarely touch on the bad news. All that emphasis is mine because I love doing it. Think about it. How's this result for turning the traditional criticism of journalism on its ear? We (the royal we, as in journalists) focus too much on the bad, or so goes the criticism by just about everyone on the planet who isn't a journalist, but according to this study, the news "may give patients an inappropriately optimistic view of cancer treatment, outcomes, and prognosis."
Wow. Journalists optimistic? Something's deeply wrong here.
But if we assume for the moment the study was done halfway well, then this result does surprise. Clearly someone in journalism is asleep at the switch. Get back to that bad news!