Local television news may be using pre-packaged health stories

Budget cutbacks are forcing some local television stations to use canned health segments that can be tailored to a specific local market.

The result can give “viewers the false impression that the stories were locally produced and the patients and doctors quoted in the stories could be their neighbors,” and one nationally syndicated physician is in some trouble for using them extensively.

Gary Schwitzer notes that this is a worrying trend, and that many of the pre-packaged segments are little more than company press releases. He calls the viewing audience the biggest loser in this scenario, saying they get “‘just add water’ TV news slipped into the newscast as if it is the most important news of the day for that community.”

Health journalists and television reporter need to be held to a higher standard, given the influence their material could have. Reading a story like this certainly does not inspire confidence in how medicine is currently reported by some media outlets.

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  • Anonymous

    Feature stories, including most health-related stories, are not hard news. They’re filler and sometimes entertainment. As trends are seldom local, running a mass-market pre-produced feature that can be locally customized by inserting a comment or spot from a local doctor or hospital is a money-saving way to produce content.

    Automated broadcasting of centrally pre-produced programming has been around a long time in the radio media; it seems to be a practice at the heart of the profitability of large radio networks which frequently need no live persons present at a radio station for many hours at a time, all the broadcast being handled remotely.

  • Anonymous

    TV is not the best place to get health news nor is the internet. The stories are often bias.

    Would you believe that colostrum milk from a cow is now touted as the new health food? I worry that some naive mother will substitute formula or breast milk for this, thinking that it has more antibodies. Yes, it does, but babies absorb whole proteins, too.

  • Anonymous

    This has been happening for a long time. At least fifteen years. Usually they drop in a local talking head or voiceover. It’s like the associated press of video.

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