Tag Archives: nonprofit

Komen’s funding of research drops; writer looks at charity’s message vs. science

Amid the controversy over the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation’s changes in funding for Planned Parenthood, Reuters’ reporters Sharon Begley and Janet Roberts took a look at the organization’s financial statements.

Their analysis shows that the charity has “cut by nearly half the proportion of fund-raising dollars it spends on grants to scientists working to understand the causes and develop effective new treatments for the disease.”

In 2008, it spent 29 percent of its donations on research awards. In 2011, that number was down to 15 percent.

Reuters reports that, according to the 2011 financial statement, “43 percent of donations were spent on education, 18 percent on fund-raising and administration, 15 percent on research awards and grants, 12 percent on screening and 5 percent on treatment.”

Meanwhile, AHCJ member and independent journalist Christie Aschwanden writes that the real scandal lies with the organization’s “science denialism.” She says it has perpetuated the “notion that breast cancer is a uniformly progressive disease that starts small and only grows and spreads if you don’t stop it in time” – breast cancer’s false narrative.

Aschwanden points out that Komen’s insistence that women be “screened now” and that early detection saves lives, as proclaimed in its ads, “flies in the face of basic cancer biology” as well as places blame on people who have metastatic breast cancer. The piece is well worth a read, especially to find out what Komen’s own chief scientific adviser says about the organization’s message.

And, for a re-cap of the Komen saga, ProPublica has put together a handy timeline of Komen’s “Shifting Story on Planned Parenthood.”

Endowment funds local health reporter

Let’s get the headline out of the way first: The Merced Sun-Star is hiring a health care reporter!

Now, the interesting part. The Sun-Star‘s new 18-month spot is funded by The California Endowment, which you may remember as a key backer of California Watch. merced1It’s part of the endowment’s 10-year plan to improve local health.

Merced County was chosen as one of the 14 places in the state to work with the endowment in a 10-year plan to help transform communities and neighborhoods into places where everybody can be healthy, safe and ready to learn, according to Building Healthy Communities.

Thanks to that larger mission, the Merced health care reporter will cover some interesting sub-beats in addition to the Sun-Star‘s traditional health coverage.

The endowment started with 10 goals to accomplish over the next decade. After polling folks in those communities, it set three priorities over the next three years: create healthier youngsters to grow, learn, play and lead, which organizers call “Healthy Youth Development;” prevent and reduce violence; and link economic development to community health.

They’re areas that are certainly not foreign to health care journalists, and a reminder that reporting on the health of the community means thinking beyond hospitals and outbreaks.

AHCJ members will probably already remember that this isn’t the first time Merced has taken the lead in health care journalism innovation, and that the new reporter is really the next step in an ongoing process.


The California Endowment’s Mary Lou Fulton posted some background on the project, a sort of “how-to” primer she wrote for foundations looking to support local news. In addition to explaining why the foundation chose to fund local projects, Fulton also spends a considerable amount of time addressing concerns about editorial independence and conflicts of interest.

California Watch serves up data, health stories

cawatchThe new Center for Investigative Reporting-backed California Watch site is an ambitious and, by virtue of its commitment to providing resources for readers’ own investigations, a particularly reporter-friendly nonprofit news site. Unlike many of their peers, they’re looking toward a syndication-based funding model and seem ready to try just about anything.

This spirit of openness is evidenced by reporter Christina Jewett’s list of story ideas, which include meaty standards (hospital finance, aging population) and a slightly less-covered story (problems with the child welfare system), as well as the health subject page, where Jewett is fairly open about what she’s working on, as well as what she’s reading. All-in-all, the site uses a careful balance of self-promotion and transparency to create a compelling news destination.

Texas Tribune’s launch has health data, stories

As you may have noticed, the much-anticipated nonprofit news site Texas Tribune launched today. From the start, the venture is including hard-hitting health news, leading with a data-driven story on the restraint of special education students in Texas schools and following through with a number of state-oriented health stories.

A quick examination of the lead story gives a few hints as to where Texas Tribune health coverage might be going:

Disabled students restrained, injured in public schools

Texas is one of four states that collects data on instances in which special education students are restrained, and Texas Tribune reporter Emily Ramshaw has taken advantage of that data to dig into the practice of restraining special education students in Texas and uncover illuminating statistics and a few distressing anecdotes. With the story, Ramshaw provides PDFs of a federal report and a simple pie chart of the data. The story’s arresting photos were contributed by a victim’s family.

Reporter digs up Seattle hospital salaries

John Ryan of KUOW News in Seattle used publicly available data and records requests to localize the national debate on nonprofit compensation with a piece on top earners at Seattle-area hospitals. Ryan details his information-gathering process here and shares his list of top local earners.

Ryan used a mix of local and national sources, getting explanations from some of the top earners (and perspective from some of the bottom earners) and quotes from those who believe nonprofit workers should not be earning that much money. He also included the thoughts of those who believe nonprofit hospitals need to pay competitive salaries in order to bring competitive talent.

Another story looks at the role of charity care and how much of it is provided: “Only three of the nonprofit hospitals in central Puget Sound give away more than 2 percent of their care to the poor: Providence Regional in Everett, Saint Clare in Lakewood, and Saint Francis in Federal Way. The Washington Department of Health tracks those figures.”