Media Panel Invites Summit Researchers to Get to Know Them
What did journalists have to offer a gathering of cancer researchers and advocates at NCI's Cancer Health Disparities Summit? Plenty. That's what summit participants found out on July 18 during the plenary session, "Health Disparities in the News: Getting the Word Out."
Providing insight into how they work, the journalists left a clear and direct message with summit attendees: The ethnic media needs to be taken more seriously; they deserve to be viewed as a legitimate "go-to" source for audiences interested in health disparities and other news. In addition, the journalists encouraged researchers and community-based advocates to learn more about the ethnic media in their own communities and establish relationships with those media outlets.
"You really can call reporters. It's okay," said George Strait, former chief medical correspondent for ABC News and more recently the communications director for NIH's National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Mr. Strait, who covered NIH as a reporter, moderated the panel, which included Sandra Basu, American Indian health beat writer for U.S. Medicine; Stella Choi, writer for the monthly Asian Fortune magazine; Hazel Edney, editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association/Black Press USA; Dr. Elmer Huerta, radio and TV host and founder of the Cancer Preventorium in Washington, DC, for the Hispanic community; and Viji Sundaram, health editor of the country's only major nationwide news service for ethnic media, New America Media.
"What best gets the attention of our editors and readers is when we give them the 'what to do.' Not just the statistics, but what can you do?" said Ms. Edney. "You've done a great job telling us the wheres and the whys and the statistics."
Ms. Sundaram talked about how her calls to other federal agencies and corporations are often met with dismissive attitudes, simply because she is not calling from a major media outlet. She cautioned that this is a mistake.
Many people will remember Dr. Huerta's presentation. He began with a series of graphic displays of the ravages of breast cancer. He used that as his prop to discuss what drives him in his work, both as a member of the media and as a practicing oncologist. Dr. Huerta said that too many Hispanics have more access to the latest soccer scores and happenings on soap operas than to reliable cancer information. As a result, he works to get the word out through five radio shows and three television programs. "I'm always asking myself, 'What can we do?'"
That seemed to be the prominent question on everyone's mind during the summit: "What can we do?" It appears that the panel of journalists may have helped open up some new avenues in answering that question.
By James Alexander