How SEO News affected health journalism in Turkey?

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Author: Rabia Aykut  

The importance of health journalism, which is mostly made by interns in Turkey, has increased with the pandemic. Now SEO news is made by SEO editors. So, how has SEO news understanding affected health journalism? We talked about the effects of SEO news on health journalism with ESAM Association President Nuray Özger Karagöz and prof.dr. Süleyman İrvan from Uskudr University.

Nuray Özger Karagöz, President of the Education and Health Reporters Association, defines SEO news as "a news with semi-advertising content, made to be read, without opposing views".

Stating that public health is not considered important in SEO-friendly news, and is only content for clicks, Karagöz added: “we can also say SEO as advertising content. Even if it appears in the health category, it is the content that is supposed to be about health and informing the public, which usually highlights gastric surgeons and IVF specialists themselves”. 

Nuray Özger Karagöz explained with examples the state of health journalism that came with the understanding of SEO news:

“There is an Endocrinology department in almost every state hospital in our country, which every individual with insurance can benefit from, free of charge. Endocrinology specialists help the incoming patient to have a healthy diet, solve weight problems, and lead a better quality of life. These are their areas of expertise. 

However, every day, we come across the recommendations of diet experts on all television and internet sites. In particular, the contents of diet experts (some of whom also have academic titles) can be seen on websites. This is what undermines real health reporting. The words of an endocrinologist, who provides information for public health appear on the back pages of search engines such as Google-Yandex. But the content of diet experts who have SEO content is in the first place”.

 

SEO tricks that a reader won't see

Let's say a woman is going to get married, she wants to lose weight between engagement and wedding. She searches for #how to lose weight. This is where the SEO trick comes in. SEO, which is only visible in search engines, the fact that the searching woman cannot know, comes into play.

In SEO it says: #how to lose weight without doing sports #how to lose weight while working out. SEO also includes a height - weight index for almost every age group. There is a diet program that appeals to almost all of the society. She is reading the news and is misinformed. However, she cannot see the warning of the endocrinologist on the second or third page of the search engine.

SEO also causes the mistakes that those who want to lose weight but can't keep up often make. The reader prefers easy-to-use content over healthy and naturally gruelling weight loss. In SEO, she clicks the news "Do you have a weight problem, say goodbye to your weight and fat with stomach surgery". The content (it's definitely not news) says that supposedly experts in endocrinology or medicine also recommend stomach surgery.

Pointing out that SEO news is a very dangerous structure for public health, not information pollution, Karagöz said that this structure is generally funded by surgeons, private hospitals and clinics.

Competition at vaccine market

Referring to the content of defamation and praise in SEO, Karagöz draws attention to the fact that vaccine manufacturers also apply to SEO.

“Only the coronavirus vaccine market (two doses) in the world was calculated to be worth 20 billion dollars. In this market, countries market their own vaccines through high-level politicians. Vaccine production professional teams make content against rival vaccine companies as if it were real. SEO is definitely used in these contents”, he said.  

Drawing attention to the legal regulations of the Ministry of Health regarding the advertising ban and promotional activities in the field of health, Karagöz said:

 “With these regulations, it is aimed to prevent the transformation of human health into a commercial element. Health journalism is also a public service and the aim of the news should be both protection of the public interest and protection of the freedom of people to reach right news”.

How to read health news?

Karagöz listed what readers and viewers should look for in real health news. Health content that does not contain the word "most" and does not contain assertive expressions should be preferred, 

Is there an opposing view in the article? Are academic study data included? Rather than the explanations of surgeons, the opinions of specialist doctors at the level of associate professors or professors should be considered. Check the content you suspect; the drug brand recommendation on the international scientific health site named Lancet https://www.thelancet.com/ academic studies are available.

Regarding the means of promotion and placement of health advertisements, with the commercial purposes of the Ministry of Health, Karagöz said, “The Bule human package is intended to benefit from commercial purposes. Health journalism is also a public service and it should intend to benefit the public.”

Click journalism destroys media

Üsküdar University New Media and Journalism Department Head prof. dr. Süleyman İrvan says that click journalism destroys the reputation of the media.

Mentioning that health journalism is a field that requires expertise, İrvan said: 

“News should be produced in accordance with the public interest. Public health should be considered. Click journalism provides short-term income. It should be long term. They destroy the reputation of the media. No media organization can benefit from this".

Stating that SEO journalism is not bad in terms of logic, but it is done poorly in Turkey, İrvan said that the SEO editor should make news readable. 

“Writing good news is SEO journalism, in my opinion. We are somewhat misunderstood. It has almost turned into the style of how we can lie and have it read, how we create a sensation and make it read. I think this SEO reporting hurts journalism. In fact, I think good SEO journalism is also a good thing for journalism in general.”