Jessica Levco, of Ragan Communications, provides some insight into how at least one public relations professional is pitching health stories to reporters – and perhaps taking advantage of staffing shortages in newsrooms.
The article offers suggestions from Danielle Cass, the communications manager for Kaiser Permanente, that include creating videos, doing practice interviews with experts and putting news in proper context in press releases. She also that hospital communicators should write a press release just as they want to see it appear in the publication.
She gives the example of pitching Anderson Cooper’s producer about how extreme obesity is affecting more children at younger ages. When she tuned into an episode of Anderson Cooper 360, he used two of the three bullet points that she e-mailed.
“This is a reflection of what’s happening in the media,” Cass says. “A lot of media outlets are short-staffed. If you do your due diligence and put together a well-rounded piece, you could see your press release picked up word for word.”
Hospital says it gives content to short-staffed media
Lindsey Miller of Ragan Communications Inc., a publisher of corporate communications, writes that Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has found a way to “spread its message” – by providing content to the area’s short-staffed television stations. [Update: The link to that article has since been moved behind a pay wall.]
The hospital‘s director of marketing communications says she has flipped the problem of reduced local medical reporting due to layoffs to her advantage by providing features and experts to help fill the gap, particularly at TV stations such as Boston’s Fox affiliate.
For example, Beth Israel’s hand surgery numbers had been down lately, so [director of marketing Rhonda] Mann pitched a four- to five-minute segment on carpal tunnel syndrome, making one of the hospital’s surgeon available to talk about the condition. Now, every month or so, the station brings in someone from Beth Israel to present common health tips. Doing so fills time and gives anchors a topic to promote for the next day.
Mann says stations are looking for health content “because a lot of the first people laid off covered a beat, health in particular. She provides examples of how she helps producers:
To fill that void, Mann pitches health topics of general interest — such as back pain, headaches, heartburn — and boils them down into five easy-to-remember tips or facts. She also makes it easy for the station by offering to do the work.
A quick search of the WFXT-Boston Web site found a number of stories featuring the hospital’s doctors:
AHCJ left phone and e-mail messages with the station yesterday in an attempt to get its comments. If we hear from the station, we will update this post.
According to the article, Mann also provides health content, from hospital publications, to TuBoston, described as “the largest Spanish newspaper in New England.”
AHCJ and the Society of Professional Journalists have urged news outlets to avoid arrangements with hospitals that improperly influence health coverage, saying unethical partnerships interfere with independent news coverage of health care. That includes broadcasting news or interviews prepared by hospitals.
MinnPost.com‘s Dr. Kay Schwebke reported that uncompensated care — both charity care and bad debt taken on by hospitals to fulfill moral and legal obligations — has climbed at “unprecedented rates” in Minnesota as folks lose insurance through layoffs or employer cutbacks or otherwise can’t afford out-of-pocket expenses and high deductibles.
In Minnesota, uncompensated care made up about 2.1 percent ($247.4 million) of hospital operating expenses in 2007, up from 1.6 percent ($128.7 million) in 2003, and there are indications that those numbers are rising.
Driven in large part by uncompensated care, “net hospital income fell from a positive 4.8 percent in third quarter 2007 to a negative 2.5 percent in third quarter 2008,” Schwebke reported.
Schwebke also looked at what these decreases meant in terms of layoffs, cutbacks and the availability of charity care at the state’s largest hospitals.
The Huffington Post is launching a fund that will support investigative reporting. The initial budget of $1.75 million is expected to pay for 10 staff journalists who will coordinate stories with freelancers.
Arianna Huffington (Photo: JD Lasica, socialmedia.biz (CC))
Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, said concern over the layoffs at newspapers hurting investigative journalism prompted the move. She hopes to hire laid-off journalists for the project.
Work that the journalists produce will be available for any publication or Web site to use at the same time it is posted on The Huffington Post, she said.
The first topic the journalists will be expected to delve into is the nation’s economy.
The Huffington Post skews liberal, but its founder promised that the work done by the investigative fund would be nonpartisan. The group would be discredited quickly if it puts out faulty information, said Nick Penniman, the fund’s executive director.
“We care about democracy, not Democrats,” he said.
Although AHCJ membership continued to increase this year as more journalists learned of its training opportunities and useful services, the group recognizes the strain under which the news media finds itself. The economic downturn has resulted in layoffs, buyouts and downsizings in several industries, including our own.
AHCJ’s board and staff believe it’s important to retain all the talented professionals who make up our membership. The tremendous AHCJ network built over the past decade is too valuable to all of us.
“It’s worrisome – and sometimes heartbreaking – to see great journalists leaving their paid staff positions for uncertain futures,” says Mike Stobbe, AHCJ’s membership chairman. “Some will probably struggle, at least for a little while, until they find their feet in new ventures.”
With that in mind, AHCJ is announcing a Transition Assistance Program to help members who are forced into a job change. Any current AHCJ member who is laid off or is required to take a buyout, is eligible for TAP.
Learn about TAP’s benefits and how you can apply.