Medicine And The Media

Keeping the bad news from journalists

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 04 January 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:81
  1. Richard Smith
  1. editor, BMJ

    British media response to government mortality statistics

    While death rates are going down for most groups in Britain, they are going up for the poorest and for young men (p 9). The already wide gap in mortality between rich and poor is getting wider. These new facts emerged from government statistics published just before Christmas. But are they news? The answer depends on how much attention you pay to the government press release and which newspaper you work for.

    The function of press releases is to point journalists towards the story. Naturally, organisations put their own spin on the information and journalists have to be careful that a story is not being hidden and that they are not being fed a line that suits the masters of the news source. The government doesn't like “inequalities” in health. Even the word is banned: “variations” is the …

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