Training up next generation of frontline health journalists

Journalism intern Riya Kiran.

Monash University journalism has created medical and health internships for the next generation of frontline journalists. Health and science journalists are on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic, similarly to health care workers.

The World Health Organization has described a second pandemic to COVID-19, or more correctly an infodemic, as “an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it”.

WHO has advised that quality public interest journalism is the antidote to the “infodemic”.

UK journalists, who deliver public service broadcasting, have been identified as key workers along with health workers and those providing essential public services. Like healthcare workers, journalists can send their children to school while they work.

In recognition of the need to train the next generation of journalists, Monash University’s Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences has created intern positions for third-year Monash School of Media, Film and Journalism students to work as “cub” health reporters.

Students gain exposure to a diverse range of medical research, across the laboratory-based discovery research conducted at Central Clinical School, population research out of the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, and psychology and mental health research at the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health.

Head of Monash Central Clinical School Professor Terry O’Brien said the aim of the program was to help students gain experience in story writing in a medical science research environment.

“The range of research that happens here in our school and across the medical faculty is wide, from teasing out basic physiological mechanisms to translational or applied research directly on therapeutic interventions,” Professor O’Brien said.

“If there has ever been a time when it’s clear how important well-trained health journalists are needed to ensure that the correct information gets to the general public, it is now.

“We are happy to be able to contribute to this small but respected and much needed pool of Australian health journalists.”

Journalism intern Riya Kiran starts her 10-week Central Clinical School internship this week.

“I have been reading about recent research conducted by Monash Medicine’s team during this pandemic,” Riya said.

“This includes the COVID test which is being developed by a CCS team, led by Menno van Zelm, to determine individuals with immunity to coronavirus and those who are most at risk, to allow for early intervention.

“Monash’s modelling of an ‘antiviral drug’ against the virus that causes COVID-19, and the ongoing improvements show the team’s importance in this fight against COVID-19.

“Importantly I recognise that the media team attached to Monash has been crucial in getting this research into the news, and I would very much love to be a part of that.”