Report looks at nonprofits’ health reporting

Maralee  Schwartz, a Shorenstein  Center  Fellow at Harvard University, has written a report titled “Getting  It  for  Free:  When  Foundations  Provide  the  News  on  Health.” (35-page PDF)

She points out that using stories produced by nonprofit foundations “raises  questions  that  go  to  the  heart  of  the  journalistic  enterprise  and  its  role  in  American  democracy:  Does  the  very  availability  of  content  about  a  pet  issue  of  a  particular  foundation  mean  that  coverage  will  be  skewed?  Does  nonprofit  journalism  mean  lower  standards?  How  does  a  newspaper  safeguard  integrity  and  independence?”

The report also looks at the economic challenges that editors are facing, including the results of a survey AHCJ and the Kaiser Family Foundation did in March.

Schwartz, formerly a political  reporter and  editor at  The  Washington  Post, takes a close look at Kaiser Health News. Schwartz also writes about efforts in various states to create nonprofit organizations to do health reporting, including the Center for California Health Care Journalism, which first partnered with the Merced Sun Star for a project. Other similar projects include the Kansas Health Institute News Service and Health News Florida.

The report includes interviews with reporters and editors at the nonprofit organizations and at newspapers that have used their work, including AHCJ board member Karl Stark.

Schwartz concludes that “Most  of  the  experts  interviewed  expressed  hope  that  this  trend  can  be  supported.  They  also  agreed  that  objections  about  the  dilution  of  independence  and  journalistic  standards  can  be  addressed  by  developing  odes  of  conduct,  for  lack  of  a  better  phrase,  so  that  both  editors  and  readers  can  have  confidence  in  the  work  produced  by  Kaiser  or  ProPublica,  or  a  variety  of  other  nonprofits.”

Leave a Reply