1. I. Introduction (15m)
  2. II. Health Reporting (40m)
  3. III. Health Storytelling (15m)

Health Guide / Evidence

Evidence Introduction

How do I find the “best” solution to any health problem?

This one’s easy. You don’t have to. It’s not your job to decide on the best way to reduce MRSA infection or encourage kidney donors. Experts don’t agree, so why should you know the answer?

It’s liberating to realize that your job is simply to write about people, places or institutions that are trying to fix things, using the same critical eye you’d apply to any other story on your beat.

You still need to use data and evidence, however, to decide whether a particular response to a problem is worth writing about. The test isn’t “is this the best solution?” but “is this a good story?”

What about something that’s really new? Fresh is great — but it often comes without much evidence. And programs with lots of clear and persuasive evidence are unlikely to be fresh.

But you can write about an intriguing new idea, even one that has no real evidence, as long as you are clear with the reader about what we know and what we don’t. If there’s not much evidence, you need to show in your story why it’s newsworthy enough to cover anyway.

Look at this story from the Alaska Dispatch News about “Minimum Mike,” a judge in Barrow who has organized his courtroom around the health problems faced by a good number of his defendants: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Is there any hard evidence that this approach works? Nope, just anecdotes. Is it a great story? Yes it is.


Story Annotation