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Book review: Handling the Media

Often subjected to trial-by-media, it seems only fair that healthcare professionals have something in their toolkit for assistance when called upon for comment or opinion. This book seeks to offer that assistance. It feels as though it was mainly written with doctors in mind and gives practical insight into dealing with requests for interviews and how to prepare yourself for the rigours of appearing in the public eye.

John Illman is a medical journalist, who has written for a number of national newspapers and was the health editor at The Guardian. He was also at one time editor of GP magazine and chair of the UK Medical Journalists Association. Writing this guide from a journalist’s perspective provides insight about what the media is really up to when asking doctors for input. Reassuringly it’s not usually anything malicious.

Illman breaks down his guide into specific sections covering the types of public appearance healthcare professionals may be called upon to make, from TV to radio and print media. He also touches on use of social media as a tool for science communication and talks about some more general presentation skills. He illustrates his points with anecdotes from his own career and each chapter is closed with a summary of the take home points, useful for boning up if faced with a sudden telephone call from a journalist.

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The book is accessible, practical and written with an authority which is hard to argue with. As a starting point for the budding media doc, or to simply keep a copy on the surgery bookshelf just-in-case, it is well worth a look.


Dr Daniel James is a GP in Suffolk