Objectives: Newspapers play a key role in disseminating information and shaping perceptions about health, research, and policies. Inadequate or misleading reporting constitutes a public health threat that can jeopardize individual health and lead to harmful health policies.
Methods: Surveys were mailed to 165 reporters at 122 newspapers in 5 Midwest states. The association of training, newspaper size, and experience with reporter's self-perceived reporting ability was assessed.
Results: The response rate was 69.6% (115/165). Between 66% and 85% of the reporters assessed 4 tasks vital to sound health reporting as "sometimes difficult" to "nearly always difficult." No significant differences in perceived ability were found by training or newspaper size. Respondents with less experience reported higher perceived ability.
Conclusions: These findings show that reporters may have difficulty understanding complex health issues and interpreting statistics because they are inadequately trained.