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The National Press Club Embraces New Media

I was welcomed as a new member of Washington, DC’s 100-year-old National Press Club (NPC) today. My credentials for membership? I’m a blogger.

The Internet has revolutionized information sharing and news reporting. Not only has it democratized the process, but it has harnessed the power of the common man and woman to bring a new depth and breadth of insight to the news. Just as medicine is becoming “personalized,” one could say that blogging is making journalism “personalized.”

Mainstream media outlets like the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal have recognized blogging as a legitimate platform for information sharing. Bloggers like me, KevinMD, Gene Ostrovsky, Dr. Rob Lamberts, and many others are openly recommended sources for further reading. In the span of 5 years, medical blogging has become a respected part of the new media landscape.

When I told my parents that I was becoming a member of the National Press Club, my dad asked if they were going to give me a press credentialling card for my fedora (hat). For him, the NPC clearly conjured up images of 1920s news reporters crowded into small, smoke filled rooms to interview foreign dignitaries.

There was a hint of truth to my dad’s vision - the NPC retains a relatively austere interior, with large flags and club seals prominently displayed in regal blue conference rooms. But beyond the C-SPAN aesthetic, the club is undergoing substantial modernization. The restrooms feature Dyson airblades, the old library’s bookshelves are being torn down to expose bay window views of DC, and the fourth floor studios are constructed with glass and clean-line architecture.

The NPC’s new member luncheon was hosted by two staff and an NPC member who joined the club in 1971. I was astonished to learn that my new membership entitled me to a free daily breakfast and unlimited access to: their librarian for my fact-checking needs, a gym with a full-time personal trainer, meeting rooms that I could book in advance for my convenience, and a Friday night taco bar. Who knew?

Near our table was a portrait of Will Rogers who, among other things, was a nationally syndicated columnist featured in over 4000 different newspapers.  Our member-host pointed at the portrait and said, “Back in Will’s day – everyone wanted to know what he thought of current events, so they’d purchase their daily newspaper to find out.”

As I considered Will Rogers’ smiling face, it suddenly struck me that blogs offer today’s readers a filter through which to view current events. And thanks to the abundance of blogs, there is an ever expanding array of personal editorial. Finding a good blog is like finding a voice you can relate to – a living commentator on events. No longer is there one voice like Will Rogers who dominates the national consciousness.

But citizen journalism has its downside, as does Karaoke. Karaoke offers everyone a microphone, but not everyone is a talented singer. In the same way, blog quality varies considerably, and so now more than ever we must cling to the old news addage, “consider the source.” The danger of blogs is that readers may ascribe more authority to their authors than they deserve. When it comes to medicine – and your health is hanging in the balance - it’s important to get the facts straight. So I believe that professional medical bloggers should work extra hard to uphold the ideals of medicine, and respect patient privacy.

Just as the NPC is welcoming bloggers like me into their midst, I hope that new media gurus will welcome what the NPC has to offer them: a rich history of journalistic integrity. I think that a fusion of old and new media might actually produce a hybrid product that will bring us the best of both worlds – a broad array of trusted voices in online journalism.

With this blog I add my “voice of reason” to the choir and look forward to all that the NPC can teach me. At the very least, I’ll enjoy Friday night taco fests with my peers in Washington.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.


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4 Responses to “The National Press Club Embraces New Media”

  1. RevJuicer says:

    Congratulations Dr. Val!

  2. ValJonesMD says:

    Thanks for going through the registration process, TBTAM! It is an exciting validation indeed – and the food at the press club is outstanding. If you’re ever in DC I’ll escort you over there immediately. Bring your camera and you can discuss the food on your blog!

  3. TBTAM says:

    Congratulations! This is such a validation of all that bloggers do. (sorry I haven’t commented before – just got the whole registration thing down for this site..)

  4. quiact says:

    The Prevention of Ignorance

    Historically, information sources provided to American citizens were limited due to the few methods available to the public.In addition, this information was subject to being filtered and, in some cases, delayed, altered, or eliminated.This occurred for a number of reasons, which included political ones.What I am referring to is pre-internet media sources in forms such as radio, newspaper, and television. .

    Now, and with great elation (some may say), there is the internet, which has been useful to everyone from researchers to job seekers.Even doctors who seek authentic information and research elements of their profession rely on the internet often.

    Soon after the advent of the internet, web logs were created, that are termed presently and simply as ‘blogs’.At that time, about a decade ago, the blogs were referred to as personal journals or diaries accessible to anyone viewing the internet. As time passed, blogs became a media medium, and blog communities evolved on topics that often were not addressed completely if at all in mainstream media.In addition, blogs usually are able to have others offer immediate contributions instead of the cumbersomeness of opinion and editorial pieces historically and not always are such pieces published in such media forms as newspapers.

    The authors of blogs vary as far as the backgrounds of the creators of these journals, as well as their true intent of what they choose to present to possible readers.Furthermore, they are not exonerated from the legalities of what is written, such as cases of libel or plagiarism, for example.While we can presume that blog creators have at least an interest in a particular subject, ideally they should also have an interest and ability to annotate the written word.As with other printed material, the quality varies of what is annotated on blogs.What is of concern to many is the sharing of personal information about another by some writers.Then issues of invasion of privacy become a possibility.

    Yet presently, blogs have become quite a driving force for those with objectives often opposed by others, and are possibly and particularly a great threat to big business and those in politics- both of which have been known to often monitor often the progress and/or content of some blogs, which potentially provide instant and often accurate information for readers- which includes what is posted on blogs as well as what may be commented on these posts.Understandably, this unique medium certainly has the potential to affect such groups unable to prevent or filter what could expose what has not been disclosed, and at times needs clearly needs to be disclosed.Rarely do blogs involve trade secrets, for example, as far as I know.So this information source in the form of a blog can be of great value to others.

    This also and fortunately includes information released from whistleblowers on certain blogs or directly to the creators of certain blogs- often and with good reason to remain invisible in doing so.Normally, information shared by these people is valid, honest, and complete.And remaining anonymous is certainly possible and likely.So secrets are difficult now to maintain with select organizations.

    Yet, blogs are not free of fallacies, as one disadvantage of blogs is the potential lack of reliability.Blogs also allow the posting of external documents that typically are not created to be viewed by others besides perhaps a select few.Furthermore, blog owners, as with journalists, strive to verify any premise stated on their blog.For example, blogger Dr. Peter Rost, a whistleblower himself, not long ago posted a newsletter on his blog, http://www.peterrost.blogspot.com, that was given to him by pharmaceutical maker AstraZeneca employees who called themselves the ‘AZ Group of Seven’ to bring to the attention to others the illegal activity of off-label promotion of one of their cancer drugs.Yet this is not what caught the attention of so many who viewed all of the content of this newsletter posted in completion on Dr. Rosts’ blog site, which he named, “Question Authority”.It was instead a comment in this newsletter that was annotated as being stated by former regional AZ manager Mike Zubalagga, who in this newsletter referred to doctors’ offices as ‘buckets of money’.Again, the statement was authentic and in writing in this newsletter.At the same time, the statement validated what others view of pharmaceutical companies in relation to their greed, perhaps, so it traumatized the company’s public relations most likely.How vexed was AstraZeneca over this matter?

    Mr. Zubalagga was fired the next day due to this comment.His manager resigned soon afterwards.

    And there have been other whistleblower blog cases in addition to this one, so blogs have become a very powerful and threatening medium of information release that does not allow others to prevent or alter such releases.This is true freedom of information- free of alteration or omission.One could say that blogs are reaching a form of some sort of communication utopia. Also, as with the case just stated about the newsletter, some are more careful about what is written than others.

    Yet again, the information on these blogs should not be taken as absolute truth without proof to verify claims that may be made.Of course, documents that are authentic are in fact proof, as illustrated with the above example.And this, in my opinion, is the blog’s greatest value, combined with the comments on blogs from the growing number of readers who are allowed to contribute to the subject matter so quickly, which fuels the objectives of the blogs, which clearly opens formerly closed loops.

    Because we, the public, have a right to know what we are entitled to know and what we want to know.This is especially true if the information could potentially be adverse to our well-being.Personally, I have no interest in the financial future of a company, for example.More important to me is the importance of knowing if others may potentially harm others with deliberate intent.

    “Always be smarter than the people who hire you.” — Lena Horne

    Dan Abshear

    Author’s note:What has been written is based upon information and belief

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