MedPage Today launches journalism fellowship–and a word on “news literacy.”

Ivan Oransky of MedPage Today has launched a new medical journalism fellowship that will give healthcare professionals in training the opportunity to work alongside the website’s journalists for a year.

Shara Yurkiewicz, who just graduated from Harvard Medical School and has blogged at PLOS and Scientific American, joined MedPage Today last week as the first recipient of the fellowship.

More about the fellowship, from MedPage Today’s press release:

“More and more often, doctors and other health care professionals are looking for options beyond their white coats,” says Ivan Oransky, MD, vice president and global editorial director of MedPage Today. “We’re thrilled to add their expertise to our coverage, and to train the next generation of medical journalists. I would have jumped at this chance in medical school had it been available.”

 The fellowship might have an added benefit beyond training journalists. The conversations that the fellows have with other doctors might help boost news literacy among medical professionals, who often misunderstand what journalists do.

I’m reminded of this by a post I saw at The Brookings Institution on an experiment in teaching college students “news literacy.” James Klurfield and Howard Schneider, both former Newsday execs (Schneider was the editor) developed a class at Stony Brook University that “teaches students to do more of the critical vetting of information that professional journalism has traditionally provided.”

You can download their paper here, but here’s an interesting snippet:

After completing the course, the News Literacy students routinely consumed more news from more sources, rated keeping up with the news as more important, voted in higher numbers, could deconstruct some video news stories more effectively, had a higher regard for the “watchdog function” of the press and had a more nuanced view, in general, of the news media. For example, at the outset of the semester only 13 percent of those taking the course felt the media treated both sides of a story fairly; by semester’s end the number had jumped to 52 percent.

We need more of this, and I hope MedPage Today’s fellowship makes a contribution.

In the meantime, now that Shara Yurkiewicz has joined the staff, we ought to show her a little respect. As a reporter, she now belongs in boldface at the Tracker: Shara Yurkiewicz.

-Paul Raeburn

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