How to Get Your Health or Medical Story Covered on ABC News
Health coverage and the twenty four hour television news cycle leaves some confused as to which health topics end up getting coverage. I attended a Public Relations Society of New York chapter panel with Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC news Senior Medical Contributor to find out which find out the process and best practices of getting a health or medical related story on ABC News. You would think having your own OB/GYN practice would be enough to keep Dr. Jennifer Ashton busy, but she is also the ABC News Senior Medical Contributor appearing on various ABC News programs such as Good Morning America and World News Tonite. Dr. Ashton believes when medical and health news segments appear on television, those segments should be understood not only by a medical doctor but people of all ages so you need to deliver clear and detailed information on all levels.
Dr. Ashton gets story ideas from e-mail and works with a ABC news producer creating the story. After doing more research Dr. Ashton meets with a ABC News staff writer along with the producer to determine the most relevant information to cover for that health news segment. Dr. Ashton receives a large amount of daily e-mails from PR folks pitching her to cover stories such as a new medical procedure or an amazing facility, though she would love to cover each and every story, in the end it is the television executives that determine what gets airtime. Jennifer is amazed that what she thought would be a popular medical issue/story at times will only be on air for just a minute or two.
Another method Dr. Ashton is able to determine if a story was popular is after the segment has aired she will do twitter chats. She is always surprised to find that a story she thought would be popular and create a lot of interest (breast cancer) only gets a few tweets and questions whereas a segment on the Paleo diet gets endless questions.
Dr. Ashton also addressed the recent death of Joan Rivers, and how it could relate to any recent celebrity death when the media is looking for answers and how to advise your clients if they are put on air to provide a medical opinion. When Dr. Ashton was asked herself to provide a medical reason after the incident she thought about Joan River’s daughter Melissa. Jennifer felt the explanation of her death should be accurate, considerate, and ethical. Dr. Ashton explained that what happened to Joan Rivers is actually a common occurrence in elderly seniors and the answer was that if you are giving an eighty year-old patient anesthesia, there are going to be risks. Jennifer suggested that you do not want to put your client into a trap when providing an on air interview as it is very easy to suggest or provide a medical diagnosis without all the facts since it can turn out to be false.
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