Be sceptical and don’t take no for an answer are just two of a raft of useful tips from ex-ABC staffer Ray Moynihan on how to be a good journalist.
Joining the ABC in 1986 Mr Moynihan worked with Radio National and Triple J, in addition to doing a five-year stint with Four Corners.
Formerly the national health and science reporter with the 7.30 Report, he “became aware of a huge and untold set of stories in the world of medicine”.
“The world has realised there is a lot about the world of medicine that needs scrutiny,” he said.
For the past 15 years Mr Moynihan has used his investigative skills to focus on the business of medicine.
“I don’t report the breakthroughs but the way medicine works as a business, an industry and a marketplace.”
As well as articles both for academic journals (including The Lancet) and for a general readership, he’s also produced books and videos.
His versatility includes being a columnist with the British Medical Journal (his 29 March 2012 column: “The power of music”) and the Medical Journal of Australia (his 20 February 2012 column: “How to stop investing in useless or dangerous healthcare”).
The blurbs on the covers of two of his books give an indication of the nature and scope of his work.
The blurb on the cover of his 2005 book Selling Sickness (written in collaboration with Alan Cassels) states: “How the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies are turning us all into patients”.
Published in 2010 his book Sex, Lies and Pharmaceuticals (co-authored with Barbara Mintzes) has as its cover blurb: “How drug companies plan to profit from female sexual dysfunction”.
Other books include Too Much Medicine? The business of health and its risks for you (1998) and Ten Questions You Must Ask Your Doctor (2008 with Melissa Sweet).
Mr Moynihan said he still does general journalism, including being a correspondent for Radio New Zealand, but he is “no longer simply a journalist”.
Even though he now “does something different”, he said he nevertheless regarded himself as “primarily a journalist in bringing stories to the public that vested interests would rather weren’t told”.
Among the activities Mr Moynihan has branched out into is that of acting, playing the role of a patient in a 25-minute mockumentary The New Epidemic (2006 with Miranda Burne) about a fictional ailment called “motivational deficiency disorder”.
Two internationally oriented short videos he’s made are Teamwork in Healthcare: Promoting Effective Teamwork in Healthcare in Canada and Rolling out AIDS drugs in South Africa.
Mr Moynihan said harm can be done by bad journalism and that “good journalism can provide oxygen for public debate”.
He said he has mixed feelings about the way new electronic technology is impacting on journalism and has noted that under its influence analysis is at risk of becoming “thinner and thinner”.
Other useful tips from Mr Moynihan on how to be a good journalist are: talk to as many people as you can, follow the money, don’t be captured by those with the loudest voices, and don’t be intimidated by the specialist/professional mystique.
He said a good journalist needs to be aware of “the hidden claims of interest” and how “the debate gets distorted by vested interests”.
“Part of being a journalist is really being energetic, tenacious and having temerity, and thinking and seeing outside the narrow parameters that are laid down for you.”