Brief reflection on news industry economic woes

This is just a periodic reminder to our readers:  yes, we are aware of the difficult economic times many are facing in the news industry.

The news of the Washington Post offering staff buyouts for the fifth time in recent years is just the latest example.

Sometimes journalists will write to us, defensively, saying things like:  “I hope I’m still around by the end of year for you to criticize!”

Our message about the need for improvements in health care journalism is often not directed solely or even primarily at the worker bees reporting and writing and producing the stories. We know what they’re up against.  Our message is often directed at their management.

I often make this comparison:

Just because automakers have had some tough economic times doesn’t mean that consumers should be satisfied if the rear axle falls off as they drive away from the dealership showroom.

Just because the news industry has faced tough times (after many boom years) doesn’t mean that news consumers should be satisfied with incomplete, imbalanced stories.  Especially with health care news.  Our consistent message is that if managment can’t devote adequate staffing, resources and training to those covering health care news, they should consider not covering health care news.  Because this is one area – of all topical areas – where people can be harmed by suboptimal reporting.

If journalists need us to help them convey that message to management, we’re available to help.


Addendum:  American Health Line’s Blog also comments on the “trend … that newspapers over the previous few years have begun dedicating fewer and fewer reporters to health policy coverage” and went on to address what was described as “an alarming imbalance in health policy news” in just the past week.



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Gregory D. Pawelski

February 9, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Your posting sparked a reflection of a journalist interview my mom had three years ago. He was from a major news organization headquartered in NYC. He spent the whole day, coming down from NYC, to interview my mother (who I just yanked out of a private, for-profit nursing home, to live with me) for a story about the elderly in nursing homes.

During the interview, I remarked to him how he was able to devote such time and resources at getting a story. He said it was the graciousness of the organization’s founder that gave him and all the people on the staff, the old fashion opportunity to search out the news (the nitty gritty so to speak).

He was thankful to him for still allowing journalists to be journalists, the way I’ve always remembered them. However, when he was finished with his story and presented it to his editor, I guess the editor thought the story was too complex and maybe politically unpleasant to publish (the private, for-profit nursing home has large tentacles).

In February of 2009, we were in the middle of the Great Recession, yet he was still able to spend the time and resources. Ironically, the story wasn’t published. Perhaps it was the beginning of dedicating fewer and fewer reporters to health policy coverage?

Good post Gary!