Rules of Engagement: Journalists’ attitudes to industry influence in health news reporting.

29 August 2014

Health-related industries use a variety of methods to influence health news, including the formation and maintenance of direct relationships with journalists. These interactions have the potential to subvert news reporting such that it comes to serve the interests of industry in promoting their products, rather than the public interest in critical and accurate news and information. Here we report the findings of qualitative interviews conducted in Sydney, Australia, in which we examined journalists’ experiences of, and attitudes towards, their relationships with health-related industries. Participants’ belief in their ability to manage industry influence and their perceptions of what it means to be unduly influenced by industry raise important concerns relating to the psychology of influence and the realities of power relationships between industry and journalists. The analysis also indicates ways in which concerned academics and working journalists might establish more fruitful dialogue regarding the role of industry in health-related news and the extent to which increased regulation of journalist-industry relationships might be needed.