Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Conflict of Interest

Next time you read a story about drug companies you should probably question the bias of the reporter. According to the Society of Professional Journalists the National Press Foundation has accepted funding from the drug company Pfizer to offer journalism fellowships on cancer issues. This promotion of the opportunity is a direct violation of SPJ's by-laws which state they should "avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived" and "remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility."

But that's not all. At its national conference in Indianapolis coming up in August, this "professional" journalism group will offer a tour of the Eli Lilly drug company corporate headquarters.

And they don't see this as a conflict of interest? Are we surprised at the recent flood of anti-CAM stories showing up in the media? Whatever happened to professional ethics? As a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists this behavior doesn't come as a surprise to me but it is disappointing. Yes there is a war going on for the minds (and wallets) of America during the health care reform effort but journalists are supposed to be objective reporters of events, not PR hacks on the take to promote one viewpoint.

To be fair, some journalists are raising objections about the disappearance of professional standards and I commend their efforts to reform their field before all credibility is lost. Hopefully these organizations will listen before they become the headline in their own story.

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