Widening the debate about conflict of interest: addressing relationships between journalists and the pharmaceutical industry

14 August 2014

The phone-hacking scandal that led to the closure of the News of the World newspaper in Britain has prompted international debate about media practices and regulation. It is timely to broaden the discussion about journalistic ethics and conduct to include consideration of the impact of media practices upon the population’s health. Many commercial organizations cultivate relationships with journalists and news organizations with the aim of influencing the content of health-related news and information communicated through the media. Given the significant influence of the media on the health of individuals and populations, we should be alert to the potential impact of industry-journalist relationships on health care, health policy and public health. The approach taken by the medical profession to its interactions with the pharmaceutical industry provides a useful model for management of industry influence. Keywords Journalism, mass media, pharmaceutical industry, conflict of interest, ethics, media regulation