NHS website - Our guide to hitting the headlines
Boffins, are you having trouble communicating the fruits of your labour to a wider audience?
Have you spent five thankless years going through stool samples in an attempt to find new treatments for giardiasis only to have your work written up as a single paragraph on page 34 of the Rochdale Observer?
Well, worry no more. Drawing on decades of journalistic experience, the Behind the Headlines team has drawn up the definitive guide to getting your work featured prominently on News at Ten. Simply follow the 10 tips below and before you know it you’ll be talking p-values with Phil and Holly on ITV's This Morning.
This is a lighthearted look at some of the common pitfalls for journalists, press officers and researchers alike.
Happy New Year from the Behind the Headlines team
1. The "X causes Y" story
Yes, it's the bread and butter of health journalism. If it wasn’t for the "X causes Y" story everyone in the industry would have to get proper jobs.
Now as we all know, X very rarely causes Y directly. As the 60ft-high neon letters on top of the Behind the Headlines Towers spell out: “It’s a bit more complicated than that”.
It's usually the case that a person with X will end up with Y, but they will also be exposed to A, B, C, D, and indeed J, along the way. But if you are going to start letting facts get in the way of a good story, you are frankly wasting all of our time as a fame-hungry researcher.
Word of advice: forget about cancer. The Daily Mail has exhausted every single "X causes Y" cancer story over the last 30 years and subsequently ruined it for the rest of us. You are going to have to be subtle.
Why not try working backwards? Pick an object and then a disease at random and see if you can find evidence to fit the two. How about "apricots cause social anxiety disorder", "staplers cause ringworm", or even "baseball caps cause stupidity" (that last one may actually be true).
Like a jazz pianist, once you become a bit more confident, you can begin to improvise around the central theme. For instance, “Actually turns out that Y causes X!” or how about “Eggheads thought that X causes Y but it actually causes Z – the idiots!”.
The possibilities are endless.
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- Stop smoking
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