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.”