Health journalism Quote of the Day

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Phil Galewitz, health writer for the Palm Beach Post, in the current issue of HealthBeat, the newsletter of the Association of Health Care Journalists:

“It used to be, in journalism, your goal was to c omplete a major investigative project or win a major statewide or national award. Today, journalists like me are worried about just surviving.”

As editor of HealthBeat, Galewitz tracks cutbacks on the health beat across the country. He writes that The Miami Herald and The Rocky Mountain News no longer have fulltime health writers.

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Pingping Yang

October 2, 2008 at 1:46 pm

I am wondering whether it happens mainly for the heath reporter or to all the journalists. If particularly in health reporter, why? and how we can change this? I remember you have told me people in the United States are interested in the health topics especially the medical report.

The Publisher

October 2, 2008 at 2:06 pm

No one systematically tracks which beats are most affected by cutbacks. So we don’t know whether health journalists have been cut back, laid off or bought out more often than journalists on other beats.
But an argument could be made that health journalism can least afford the cutbacks because of audience interest, because of complexity of the beat, and because of the health care reform issues which the nation faces.


October 3, 2008 at 4:41 am

In the current times, given the economic conditions of the country and the world at large, readers may not focus towards the health factor. Hence, a decrease in readers would lead to a decrease in the demand for writers. This is just a hypothesis and may or may not be correct. Looking forward to more comments.


October 3, 2008 at 6:58 am

I have seen healthcare take a back seat many times over my 20 odd years in the business. I think it is a matter of perceived priorities. I suspect that the sports writers and other such folks still have jobs. Healthcare is not a national priority for many which is evident by the amount of money we pay some guy to pitch a ball to another guy with a piece of wood in his hands. Granted, sports may be more fun but I don’t see how it gets a higher billing than healthcare. Just like school budgets that are tight, music and arts get the door before other programs. It’s all about what people think is important not necessarily smart.


October 8, 2008 at 2:14 pm

The situation is even worse at smaller newspapers. Even in good times, they tend to have very lean newsrooms. The emphasis is on local government, cops, courts and the occasional feature story. Rarely are reporters ever given te time and the resources to develop thoughtful, knowledgeable coverage of local health care.
And yet I’d argue that it’s especially important for readers in the rural U.S. Health care policies play out differently in rural communities. The market is different. Demographics are different. The problems and the pressures are different. This is not a good time to be a patient in rural America, and I suspect it’s going to get worse.
Actually, I thought many of the reader surveys were showing that readers want *more* health coverage, not less. Or am I wrong?
I think it’s like Mike said, above. There are lots of competing priorities in newsrooms, and health care often gets edged out by all the other stuff. Maybe it’s not even a conscious decision; maybe it’s just a reflection of the growing pressure on newsrooms to do more, more, more with less, less, less.