Objective: To study the experience of recently published authors with the news media.
Design: A self-administered questionnaire.
Participants: All first authors of scientific articles published in JAMA and The New England Journal of Medicine during a 6-month period. Of 397 surveyed, 92% responded.
Main outcome measures: Researchers were asked about (1) their experience with the news media, (2) their attitudes toward the dissemination of health-related research to the general public, and (3) their attitudes toward the lay press.
Results: Of respondents, 65% stated that their research was discussed in the lay press, and 60% reported that they were directly contacted by the press. Researchers had positive attitudes toward the press; 86% reported that news reports based on their research were accurate and 44% felt that media coverage would help them achieve their overall professional goals. Positive aspects of media coverage most frequently endorsed were that (1) it improves the image of the profession, (2) it informs the professional community of their research, and (3) it allows the public to understand the topic better. Negative aspects of media coverage were (1) it gives the impression that the researcher is seeking publicity, (2) it creates jealousy among colleagues, and (3) it takes too much time. Researchers were not eager to change the existing dissemination process, yet they endorsed the need for uniform standards concerning relations with the press.
Conclusions: The majority of first authors in two leading medical journals reported substantial media coverage of their research, expressed generally positive sentiments about the press coverage of their work, and expressed a need for consensus on interactions involving the press.