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Arendt, Florian (March 2016): Journalists' attitudes towards homeopathy. Survey data from Germany. In: Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies (FACT), Vol. 21, No. 1: pp. 17-21

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Background By selecting and shaping potential news content, journalists construct mediated realities that in turn can contribute to the public's mental picture of health, including issues related to controversial complementary and alternative medicines such as homeopathy. As previous research has shown, journalists' reporting is influenced by their own attitudes; thus, positive attitudes towards homeopathy may contribute to favourable, uncritical or even enthusiastic reporting.

Objectives To investigate how journalists in Germany view homeopathy and whether demographics, organisational factors and attitudes towards conventional medicine influence journalists' attitudes towards homeopathy.

Method We surveyed journalists in order to investigate their attitudes towards homeopathy, predicted by demographics (i.e. age, gender, education, political leaning), organisational factors (i.e. professional experience, senior position, working on health-related content) and attitudes towards conventional medicine.

Results Although the ‘average' journalists showed favourable attitudes towards homeopathy, the opinion climate was highly polarised. Women, journalists in senior positions and health journalists showed more positive attitudes towards homeopathy. Attitudes towards conventional medicine were unrelated to attitudes towards homeopathy.

Conclusion Because journalists act as the ‘gatekeepers' of evidence-based scientific knowledge, targeted scholarly attention on journalists' attitudes is important. A thorough understanding of journalists' attitudes may contribute to a better dissemination of evidence-based scientific knowledge to the wider public. This may ultimately contribute to better-informed patients who make their health decisions by considering evidence-based knowledge instead of widely shared myths.

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