I felt that the above snippet from this article captured things best. Health journalism has certainly taken a hit in certain respects; the news industry for general and global health is on a notable decline, and seasoned health journalists are losing their chance to share their work. And yet, it has seen development unparalleled by other branches of journalism, stemming from the very basis of this perceived spiral downward.
The rise of online-only news, along with the spread of health-related journals, have allowed this industry to soar to new heights in recent years. Finding its fuel in private grants and an ever-growing global health professional audience, independent journalism has taken over where “mainstream media” left off, allowing for the rapid spread of health information through private sources.
Advocacy groups, too, are steadily replacing the work of freelance journalists. This does, of course, prove foreboding for said freelancers, who are facing massive pay cuts as private organizations gain recognition–and supremacy–in the field of global health. Yet even this change has its benefits. The research into and coverage of prevalent health issues by organizations like the Gates Foundation or policies like the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) have raised billions of dollars toward combating disease, and have rallied millions worldwide behind the cause of public health.
And not to mention these organizations’ and independent journalists’ superior use of social media in promoting their stories. French medical company Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) produces more web videos and slideshows and conducts more for-television expert interviews than most journalists and news anchors can ever hope, while Washington D.C.’s Center for Global Development (CGD) runs a well-read blog on global health issues, as well as a Twitter and Facebook page. This lack of mastery over highly-popular, easy-to-use tools will definitely put a ding in mainstream media, as we know it.
So as grim a prognosis as this may seem for Ol’ Mainstream, perhaps it’s more a reconstruction than a death sentence. “Mainstream,” after all, is a fluid term–one that embodies what’s current and cutting-edge. And by the looks of it, independent, privately-funded journalism with a WHOLE lot of social media alongside seems to be it.
P.S.: Here’s the original, 32-page report courtesy of The Kaiser Foundation, if you’d like to read it.