Reporting risk–that's entertainment

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 25 September 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:756
  1. Graham Easton, assistant editor (
  1. Career Focus, BMJ

    When I was doctoring, cursing the media was part of the job–like moaning about the General Medical Council or the BMA negotiators. So when I announced that I was going to become a medical journalist, I was prepared for my fellow doctors to accuse me of betrayal and curse me by association. Instead, they cheered me on. I was their special agent going undercover into the enemy camp. Eight years later, here is my dispatch from behind the lines. Reporting risk in the media has been a tougher mission than I thought.

    My most basic intelligence is that journalism–of any sort–is mostly about entertainment. Even news, science articles, or serious medical programmes have to be entertaining if they are to inform and educate, and in the struggle to engage people the journalist's favourite weapon is the story. That doesn't have to mean dumbing down; but human nature dictates that the best stories (think of juicy office gossip) are surprising, unusual, dramatic, or emotive and usually personal–all key ingredients of stories about, for example, killer bugs, the pill scare, …

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