Hi, HIStalk readers! Katie The Intern here. I’m back and somehow made it through my first week of learning healthcare IT. How do you all keep up with this industry with such poise?
I find myself wanting to be interesting and somewhat humorous. I Googled healthcare IT humor and found a Pinterest board full of IT jokes. Once I feel like I’ve earned a few throwaway dad jokes in the IT department, I’ll share them. If you have any, I’d love to read them!
How Journalists Use Sources
Mr. H suggested that I briefly discuss how journalists choose and use sources. From my studies and experience in journalism, the best sources are sources that are timely and factual. You’ll think, jeez, you paid for that class? But, you’d be surprised how many sources I have replaced because the information they promised to have or the timeframe in which they promised to deliver that information fell through. There is no story without sources. There is no information to be shared unless that information is substantial to reporters. We choose sources and statistics that are tangible, honest, and valuable.
That being said, sources must also be willing to talk to journalists about what they know. I briefly studied media law, and in my opinion, protecting a source can sometimes prove more valuable than the information itself. Establishing trust with private sources, especially those whose employment teeters on that information’s publicity, is a very valuable practice.
The protection of a journalist when using an anonymous source is known as a shield law. Shield laws vary from state to state, and do not completely provide protection in all cases. Shield laws come from the first amendment and allow a journalist to claim that consumers have a right to newsworthy information despite the source it comes from. This varies in court, medical journalism, private investigations, and others.
Shield laws apply to publications that claim to be information sources, i.e., your average newspaper, online news hubs, and most of the places you read or watch news. Blogs and private boards typically do not fall under shield laws because the information is not classified as news, but as opinion. To be completely honest, I don’t know much more about media law and where the line is drawn when information is not bound to a specific state (HIStalk readers submit information from all over). But I will do more research and update you in my next post. I’ve been reviewing sites I read in school, and this Columbia Journalism Review article is a good start.
What I can say is, a journalist’s reputability is on the line, too, when reporting with anonymous sources. A good journalist will do their research on a source and make sure they are who they claim to be and the information they are giving is factual. A good journalist will establish themselves as trustworthy and reputable so that readers feel they can trust what they’re reading.
Now for more of what I think about sourcing information on blogs! Opinion is valuable as long as it is labeled as opinion. Rumors are valuable as long as they are labeled as rumors. Sourcing for both should follow similar guidelines. Sources should be able to confirm where they obtained their information. Sources should confirm their connection to their information. Sources should provide as much documentation as possible. It is on the journalist to confirm that these things are valuable and truthful. As long as rumors can be substantiated (such as, this could be true, but it is a rumor), then reporting on them is fair and fun. Making private or rumored information public can be quite exhilarating. HIStalk readers seem to enjoy rumors and the discussions they sponsor.
Thoughts on Health IT News Reporting
As a journalism major, I am finding great value in reading HIStalk even though I have never read much about healthcare IT. It has opened my eyes to niche industry reporting and blogging. I did not realize the scope of the HIStalk world and the worlds that it revolves in. Niche reporting is a safe industry, but the niche does have to be big enough to be sustainable. I am learning that finding a niche and being good at hosting discussions about it is quite sustainable. Mr. HIStalk has gotten this right for almost two decades, as you all know.
I’ve been reading other sites and comparing their reporting practices with the aggregation and types of coverage that Mr. HIStalk uses for the news he posts. In one sense, HIStalk cannot compete with regular news, simply because the audience is expecting only healthcare IT news. Any other information would seem out of place and boring. On the other hand, HIStalk outpaces other healthcare IT sources because of its unique atmosphere of readers and discussion. Blogs and news are both competitive sources, but luckily they are competitive in their own niches and universes and not so much with each other.
My future columns will consist of what I am learning, interviews with young professionals in the IT field, interviews with marketers and PR people about how and why they use HIStalk, and more research on what I have been learning.
I am also looking for a “beat,” so to speak, that I can write about each week. My first thoughts on this focus on the growth and prevalence of using telehealth to cut down treatment times in hospitals and clinics. For example, I talked to a family friend who discussed how telehealth saves time in diagnosing a stroke in a patient, allowing life-saving medication to be administered faster. It would be both entertaining and enlightening to interview various IT employees at different levels and get their take on what telehealth has done, what it can do in the future, and how fast it will grow. Mr. H suggested looking into news and information about consumerism in telehealth, which I am also interested in writing about but would certainly need ideas for expansion of that topic.
If you have any ideas on expanding these topics or believe they would not be as interesting as I find them to be (being new to this field, I recognize some topics that I find exhilarating are old news to the professionals), do comment or send me an email. I’d love feedback and advice!
Overall, I feel I am learning a great deal from Mr. H, HIStalk readers, and from reading about healthcare IT online. I am very appreciative of those who took the time to send me emails, advice, and tips as I learn more about this field. Thank you for reading, and I look forward to furthering my HIStalk studies with you all.
Katie The Intern