Beltramini, who works for the most popular science magazine in Europe, and a gutsy bulldog of a reporter, presented the story of how over the past 15 years owners of many private, for-profit owners of health clinics have purchased shares in leading Italian newspapers.

She told of Giuseppe Rotelli, for example, who owns a group that controls 18 of the countries largest hospitals. He is the largest shareholder in Corriere della Sera, Italy’s best-selling daily newspaper. How free, Beltramini asks, are these newspapers to criticize their owners, who also own clinics that may promote medical interventions that may not be evidence-based. “Papers use doctors from private hospitals as sources,” she said.

Beltramini told the group she had begun collecting press releases promoting new medical therapies and examining them to see who is quoted, or as she puts it, “who speaks for whom.” The idea is to eventually warn journalists away from those sources who represent the medical industry, and may have vested interests in pushing a product.

Sounds like a pretty good idea for us here in the US, too, along with investigations into ownership. Healthcare facilities are increasingly becoming part of large groups with the kind of of marketplace clout that affects what treatments patients get and how much they cost.

“If healthcare journalism isn’t able to do its job, private hospitals increase demand through disease mongering and over-diagnosis,” Beltramini concluded. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Related stories:

What We’re Learning About Hospitals, Part One

A shout out to the Palm Beach Post

Medicare costs: Are electronic records the solution—or the problem?


Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.