In a bid to maintain health coverage in communities where newspapers are stretched too thin, The Center for California Health Care Journalism has been hatched by the Annenberg School of Journalism at the University of Southern California and the California HealthCare Foundation to report on issues of concern to Californians.
The foundation felt that coverage of health policy in California was disappearing. It wanted to know if foundations and nonprofits could underwrite quality journalism while keeping it independent. And so it initiated a “proof of concept” in which a small group of journalists does stories, completely independent of the foundation, which funded the pilot project with $239,000 for six months.
The result: “Sowing Hope,” a series in the Merced Sun-Star exploring the quest for a University of California medical school in Merced, a town in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Thanks to the blend of nonprofit and traditional journalism, the newspaper gave its readers an “up-close and extensive look at UC Merced’s hope for a medical school,” according to Sun-Star executive editor Mike Tharp said
The center is part of a growing trend of nonprofits actively reporting health stories. In recent months, the Kaiser Family Foundation announced plans for its own Kaiser Health News. The Kansas Health Institute – supported by foundations – employs writers and editors in its own news service, and the foundation-supported Web site Florida Health News collects stories and does some original health reporting.