This thesis attempted to investigate how the Internet had changed the reporting of medical news. Since the late 20th century, there have been growing concerns about emerging global health issues. Consequently, the media have an important role to play to better serve the needs of people seeking medical news and information. My presumption was that the Internet held the key for news organizations to accomplish this task: the population online has been exploding since the mid-1990’s. Further, it seemed that the Internet could overcome the limitations of the traditional media because of its virtually unlimited space and interactivity.

To examine this assumption, I supplemented the traditional literature review with interviews with primary reporters, editors, producers, and others involved in both traditional and online journalism. To provide a context for the study, I also examined some of the major online sources of medical information. Finally, to better illustrate how news organizations have made use of the Internet in reporting medical issues, I conducted a case study about mad cow disease. In the case study, I compared how online and traditional versions differed during 2000 in three news organizations: CNN, CBS, and The New York Times.

In conclusion, I found that the availability of the Internet did not automatically improve the reporting of medical news. Whether the media are online or offline, it is the people, organization, and/or social forces, or a combination of these factors, that make the difference, not the technologies per se.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Traditional and online media
How the internet has changed the reporting of medical news

Keiko Kandachi   M.A. University of Maryland, College Park

This thesis attempted to investigate how the Internet had changed the reporting of medical news. Since the late 20th century, there have been growing concerns about emerging global health issues. Consequently, the media have an important role to play to better serve the needs of people seeking medical news and information. My presumption was that the Internet held the key for news organizations to accomplish this task: the population online has been exploding since the mid-1990’s. Further, it seemed that the Internet could overcome the limitations of the traditional media because of its virtually unlimited space and interactivity.

To examine this assumption, I supplemented the traditional literature review with interviews with primary reporters, editors, producers, and others involved in both traditional and online journalism. To provide a context for the study, I also examined some of the major online sources of medical information. Finally, to better illustrate how news organizations have made use of the Internet in reporting medical issues, I conducted a case study about mad cow disease. In the case study, I compared how online and traditional versions differed during 2000 in three news organizations: CNN, CBS, and The New York Times.

In conclusion, I found that the availability of the Internet did not automatically improve the reporting of medical news. Whether the media are online or offline, it is the people, organization, and/or social forces, or a combination of these factors, that make the difference, not the technologies per se.

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