The Internet offers a vast amount of information regarding health and medical issues. However, the Internet is not merely a new means of disseminating medical news. The roles and interrelationships of medical professionals, journalists, and news consumers are changing--perhaps fundamentally--as we enter the era of online health news, an era in which news consumers enjoy increasing control over the selection, dissemination, and even the interpretation of health news. Online news services and Internet web sites provide rapid access to and rapid dissemination of health news and information. Virtual communities such as Internet newsgroups are easily and frequently formed on the basis of members’ shared interests in particular health issues. These communities often play an important role in how members seek, receive, and interpret health news. The Internet alone will not change the way health news is collected, disseminated, and interpreted. To be sure, the Internet enables news consumers to more actively select and filter news, thereby challenging journalists’ traditional editorial and reporting roles. But health news in cyberspace can be fully understood only in the broader context of social and economic forces that are remaking medical research and health care industries, news industries, and news audiences, in the process cultivating changes in public conceptions of science and medicine, the body, and of health itself.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Health news in cyberspace
Interactivity, audience activity, and the changing role of journalists

William Evans   Georgia State University

The Internet offers a vast amount of information regarding health and medical issues. However, the Internet is not merely a new means of disseminating medical news. The roles and interrelationships of medical professionals, journalists, and news consumers are changing--perhaps fundamentally--as we enter the era of online health news, an era in which news consumers enjoy increasing control over the selection, dissemination, and even the interpretation of health news. Online news services and Internet web sites provide rapid access to and rapid dissemination of health news and information. Virtual communities such as Internet newsgroups are easily and frequently formed on the basis of members’ shared interests in particular health issues. These communities often play an important role in how members seek, receive, and interpret health news. The Internet alone will not change the way health news is collected, disseminated, and interpreted. To be sure, the Internet enables news consumers to more actively select and filter news, thereby challenging journalists’ traditional editorial and reporting roles. But health news in cyberspace can be fully understood only in the broader context of social and economic forces that are remaking medical research and health care industries, news industries, and news audiences, in the process cultivating changes in public conceptions of science and medicine, the body, and of health itself.

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