National Press Foundation's Journalist Training is a Winning Proposition for Pharma | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Once again the National Press Foundation’s programs are raising conflict of interest questions for journalists. This time the NPF is sponsoring its seventh training session on covering cancer this month in Washington, and in February there will be another training event on obesity held in Phoenix. Both are enticing. The prospect of lots of story ideas, reporting strategies and as the website advertises, “a solid list of sources and resources, including access to audio, slides and some video from speakers” is hard to resist in this age of diminished travel budgets and fast turnarounds for copy. Expense-paid trips, ready-made material, and the ability to get an expert on the phone quickly is a heaven-sent opportunity.

National Press Foundation training programs, however, are hardly pure. These events are often sponsored by corporations that don’t shell out money to fly 15 or 20 journalists to Washington or Phoenix and keep them housed and fed for four or five days for nothing. The funder list, which does include a sprinkling of media organizations and others like AARP, reads mostly like a who’s who of corporate America with Bayer, the Mayo Clinic, and Eli Lilly among the health care companies making the Chairman’s Circle, presumably reserved for large donors. The NPF’s website soliciting new sponsors isn’t shy about what’s in it for them if they cough up the cash.

“Work with us to find the right blend of training and education of journalists to fit your strategy. A literate journalist is a smarter journalist, and that’s a win-win for everyone.”

Educating and training journalists to fit your business strategy? Sounds like a heaven-sent opportunity for sponsors too. Even though the Foundation chooses the speakers, just getting the company name planted favorably in a journalist’s mind is useful. Bayer, the giant drug maker that concentrates on innovative drugs and novel therapies including those for oncology, is sponsoring the cancer sessions. The NPF website advertises that the “latest treatment regimens” will be discussed and presumably that includes the new (and probably expensive, possibly harmful, and maybe ineffective) drugs in the pipeline—some perhaps made by Bayer or will be someday. The Mayo Clinic is the money behind February’s obesity training in Phoenix, where Mayo has a branch operation. It also has expertise in treating obesity like bariatric surgeries and sells related products such as books and DVDs on diabetes diets and weight loss. Perhaps their experts might be quoted someday or a book mentioned in a self-help piece.