Power and control in interactions between journalists and health-related industries – the view from industry.

05 May 2015

The mass media is a major source of health information for the public, and as such the quality and independence of health news reporting is an important concern. Concerns have been expressed that journalists reporting on health are increasingly dependent on their sources – including representatives of industries responsible for manufacturing health-related products – for story ideas and content. Many critics perceive an imbalance of power between journalists and industry sources, with industry being in a position of relative power, however the empirical evidence to support this view is limited. The analysis presented here – which is part of a larger study of industry-journalist relationships – draws on in-depth, semi-structured interviews with representatives of health-related industries in Australia to inductively examine their perceptions of power relations between industry and journalists. Participants painted a picture in which journalists, rather than themselves, were in a position to control the nature, extent, and outcome of their interactions with industry sources. Our results resonate with the concept of “mediatisation” as it has been applied in the domain of political reporting. It appears that, from the perspective of industry representatives, the imposition of media logic on health-related industries may inappropriately influence the information that the public receives about health-related products. KEYWORDS: journalism, ethics, power, public health, qualitative research