But coverage of the soda and violence study shows how a good story can be presented in interesting ways without over-dramatizing. And that is important both for public health and for the health of the news business. Distorted and over-dramatized coverage contributes to potentially unhealthy choices by individuals, and it fuels a growing mistrust in the press, feeding the decline in news consumption by people who are turned off by an industry that thinks that yelling is the only way to get the public to pay attention. It’s not.

News media Scream-a-Thons, particularly in the area of health and risk, may be chasing consumers away from news altogether, and undermining the business. Decent, straightforward, accurate and well-told stories can bring them back. A public that trusts journalism will pay for journalism. More careful coverage of health studies would be a good place to start rebuilding that trust.

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David Ropeik is an instructor in the Harvard University Extension School's Environmental Management Program, author of How Risky Is it, Really? Why Our Fears Don't Always Match the Facts, creator of the in-house newsroom training program "Media Coverage of Risk," and a consultant in risk communication. He was an environment reporter in Boston for twenty-two years and a board member of the Society of Environmental Journalists for nine years.