Kaiser Health News and the Star

Dateline: Tue 05 Oct 2010

The Star, on Sunday Sept. 26, ran a story on Page A17, "GOP Majority would target health care law," with a byline from Mary Agnes Carey of Kaiser Health News.

Say wot? Just what is Kaiser Health News? Obviously not Associated Press, or NYT (which the Star can no longer afford).

The answer is, in part: this is the new face of journalism, according to some accounts.

Kaiser Health News "is a nonprofit news organization committed to in-depth coverage," according to the group's own website www.kaiserhealthnews.org

Here's some info on KHN from the Washington Post, which is defending its relationship with KHN; this is from the Post's Ombudsman Blog by Andrew Alexander, and was published July 17, 2009:

"...as The Post searches for new revenue, it also is searching for new ways to stretch its coverage at a time when newsroom staffing is being reduced and budgets are under stress.

"Enter Kaiser Health News, an independent news operation that is part of a new trend in daily journalism. Increasingly, newspapers are forming content partnerships with foundation-financed news services.

"Ethical sensors should perk up whenever an established newspaper like The Post thinks about teaming up with an outside group. But in this case -- as with The Post’s collaboration with another nonprofit-based news organization, ProPublica -- it passes the test.

"So far this year, The Post has run a handful of Kaiser Health News stories.

"At the bottom of each is this:  'This story was produced through a collaboration between The Post and Kaiser Health News. KHN is a service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health-care-policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.'

(Note to blog readers: the Star ran no such disclaimer, which is why some readers were left scratching their heads.)

Among the head-scratchers is Kelly Jones Sharp, who noticed the health article the day it ran and emailed her concerns to this blog:

"I’m not sure what to make of p. A17 story  today on repealing the healthcare bill by a 'reporter” from 'Kaiser Health News.' What is this doing in our paper? Could you please address this on your blog. Kaiser hardly seems like a disinterested party in the health care arena."

A former contributor to the Star's op-ed page, Jones Sharp took her concerns to exec editor Dennis Ryerson of the Star. He has avoided the issue, in her view.

He told her, in an email, "I hope you aren't so quick to judge everything."

OK, she's not judging, just asking legit questions. Ryerson suggested she "check out Kaiser Health News." She did, and she's still asking questions.

Here's a piece she sites from Columbia Journalism Review, published in January of 2010, which raises worthy concerns about these new endeavors.


Clearly it's a new day for journalism. Clearly the Star erred by not even bothering to tell readers what Kaiser Health News is, or why readers should care.

I say: more questions than answers in this exchange...and it behooves the Star to address them.







hendy [Member] said:

No one ever question advertorial before, why should they now? The Star's "custom publication" unit is pretty much the same thing: bought and paid for.

This is the reason that the Tea Party will do well, not because they have a brain, rather, that we're becoming categorically dissatisfied with government. This is how Ballard won, this is how populist revolt is taking over.

Advertorial is more propaganda, self-serving, and full of shit. But in a monopoly newspaper, you can do just about anything, including nothing.

2010-10-06 08:27:53

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Ruthie, Hendy's right. In an odd sort of way.

For decades, we non-conservatives had to live under the yoke of ESP and his clan. They oversaw unalterated smear campaigns against Birch Bayh. They promoted that dunce nephew of theirs. (Sorry, America). They turned their heads when their buds raped the area that became Geist, Eagle Creek and Morse resevoirs. And funneled millions of that money to Dnany Boy. And other pet causes.

I harp on this because some of you romanticize those years. I know there was some solid local reporting, too. I miss that. But we always had the Pulliam filter. And because they were so heavy-handed with stories like those cited above, I never relaly knew how to take the rest of it. I tried to be open-minded. Their editorial page was a piece of shit, a national joke. The local reporters did their best, but I am certain, from time to time, some of them got "hints" about what the bosses liked and didn't like.

How is that different from the Kaiser story you've noted? It's all about news direction and slant. If any.

News slant is not new. Nor are filters, be they righty Pulliam or lefty Poynter/Bingham, et al. Producing news from a foundation-run news service might be. This would be akin to Lilly Endowment starting a news service, and reporting on the health care industry. Certainly we love the Endowment; but I do not trust it as an impartial observer of the current health care policy debate. Not one iota.

More than ever, Ruthie honey, I think we have to source our news, and question the source. God I hate "source" as a verb.

2010-10-06 11:53:27

ruthholl [Member] said:

I hear you both.
On the days of the Pulliams: my experience, coming to the Star as a part-time copy editor in 1978, was that the paper was a joke. I don't mean all the reporters, but certainly many of them knew they had jobs for life -- Pulliam largesse -- and so there was not a real strong work ethic and only rarely did one see fire in the belly (Some notable exceptions: I missed the first Pulitzer days, when Dick Cady and Bill Anderson etc. tore into the police department...however, I was there when the Star won a Pulitzer in 1991 for its stories on nursing homes -- thank you Sue Headden and Joe Hallinan and Linda Caleca).
My point, long-winded: I agree with TTT about the old days and what a sub-par paper it was; the News was better, in fact, and so were a few other papers in Indiana in the sense that they that had pluck and integrity. The Pulliam paternalism did the staff no favors, believe me. It made reporters and editors lazy; it was a good old boy system from the get-go.
And yes, everyone has an axe to grind; news slant is nothing new, and thank God people now realize that. Agreed.
Hendy's point about a monopoly paper having its say, advertorial or not, (but too often it is advertorial) is also true, I think. And I agree that populist revolt and mistrust of the old ways has got us where we are, with the tea party, etc.
I guess the biggest concern here is that the powers that be at the Star, which is still the big dog,really did not address Kelly's questions, just brushed her off.
The analogy to Lilly starting a news service -- well stated.
I realize we are in uncharted waters here, that journalism is morphing, but that does not mean we should stop asking questions ... and in fact, demanding answers.

2010-10-06 13:27:29

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

If you make a fuss, they'll drop the attribution and just make it a "Star Staff Report" like all the other self-serving press releases they run daily.

2010-10-06 13:38:55

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Ms. Cynical just hit a home run.

I guess we pick our battles. Mine was political causes--and for that I'm glad the Pulliams are gone. We owe the nation a stern apology for everythingQuayle. "C" students of the world, unite. Actually, Dan Quayle gave a bad name to "C" students.

My other small battle was over style, and I've finally won 3/4 of the fight. The ditso they've got editing the submitted anniversary pieces, wasn't editing them at all. And, to add insult to injury, she needed a Stylebook when she wrote the headlines ("The Smith's 50th"). I called them out for five weeks and finally, they've (mostly) stoped it. They're editing the submitted pieces, too.

I'm tired of reading that folks worked at Lilly's or Allison's. Those may have been fine ladies, but they're not manfacturing giants.

Alas, our language slips away not in paragraphs, but in misplaced apostrophe's. ;-)

2010-10-06 14:54:16

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Yikes. "Stopped" I hit send accidentally.

2010-10-06 14:55:11

hendy [Member] said:

My mother used to read The Star each morning because it was cheaper than coffee at getting her blood pressure going. She'd dissect pieces for their lack of referential integrity. Various beat reporters would get skewered by their sloth, disinformation, or towing somebody's line.

So what else is new?

A few posts back, there was a young person asking about a gig @ TheStar. This is one of the reasons I tried to point elsewhere.

2010-10-06 17:08:32

ruthholl [Member] said:

Hendy, your mom is too much. Great anecdote. Now I know why all those women read the newspaper! And to think, we thought it was the crossword, bridge or Dr. George Crane (who can forget "boudoir cheesecake" -- talk about getting revved up. And ONLY the Star carried that turkey; an exclusive!)
I know and believe the paper improved (it had nowhere to go but up) in the 80s and 90s. I was one of the dummies who thought Gannett might take it to another level; this, even, after reading "The Chain Gang." Even after Myrta told me we were all only going to get our cheese moved.
Part of the problem with newspaper people: incurable romantics. Whores with hearts of gold. All that good, crazy, cranky stuff.
Anyhow, you guys have given me a good laugh, and Ms. Cynical blew the discussion out of the water.
I should also add: I think today's story on the ethics investigation re: IURC and Matt Tully's column were solid.
But Kaiser Health News? Gimme a break...and give the readers a break. AND information about KHN etc.

2010-10-06 18:28:40

hendy [Member] said:

It gets juicier. The head of our Ind St BMV was caught with his PP out, wagging it at an undercover cop. Now the 4th guy will get appointed.

2010-10-06 21:00:14

ruthholl [Member] said:

Oh, Lord. That guy --- so many hassles at the BMV --- what a p---k. Empires are crashing. Plus, he's a Catholic father of 3 from Carmel!!! Ouch.
Somebody's in trouble...

2010-10-06 23:37:17

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Real, real close to that situation, Ruthie...please don't pile on. Innocent kids are heart-broken this morning. Two lives are shattered over apparently-diverted sexual desires.

It's all too sad.

2010-10-07 09:57:01

ruthholl [Member] said:

I hear you. This actually cuts close to a friend's situation, years ago.
That pain is still being felt, at many levels.
Forget politics and lame humor; as you point out, these are human beings, and some are innocent bystanders.
But what a cry for enlightenment! I can't believe the Claypool Courts is still a trolling ground. How many times does this story have to repeat itself, before men realize it's OK to have these feelings and desires, and then learn to express that within a healthy affirming setting?

2010-10-07 11:05:29

indykjsharp [Member] said:

Meanwhile (juicy PP wagging aside), corporate news can continue to run press releases, secure in the knowledge that a small minority purports to care about Truth.

2010-10-07 11:17:50

hendy [Member] said:

Ruth, the character of Daniel's appointees is ultimately what I question. There are choices, as you cite. One of them might be contact with members of the same sex in situations that are private and consensual. Or not. One takes chances with either choice but can be arrested and 'outed' with the 'not' choice.

The FSSA has been butchered and mangled. The IURC is spoiled. The BMV, once an incredibly awful place for civilians is now just less miserably so-- with the onus of draconian identification requirements to meet paranoid federal standards..... not to mention the participation in the anti-Health Care litigation....

But Kaiser's doing well, as Indykjsharp might be implying. Kaiser's all-important. Vetting political appointees apparently isn't.

2010-10-07 11:30:47

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Damn Hendy don't be so touchy! I think Sharp's post was a gentle tug back into the posted subject.

Ruthie, if you want to have a Daniels rant, post it, and we cna have at it. PLENTY of ammnunition. All of Hendy's points, and more, like:

His immense hate for public education.
His marriage. (Ahem) His residency.
His IPL fiasco. (And his father's rolling over in his grave...)

Discuss amoung yourselves.

2010-10-07 11:48:13

indykjsharp [Member] said:

T3 "gets me." I love it. The news "moment" for the posted subject is over. Apparently PPs are much more exciting. Now what this story needs (apologies to one of our great investigative journalists) is: "a two headed baby that is lucky to be alive in broad daylight and a talking dog that caused tense moments as neighbors were shocked." And it wouldn't hurt to mention Lady Gaga.

2010-10-07 12:01:24

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Lay off Gaga, Sharp!

Old men love her, too.

(Maybe, especially old men....yikes...)

2010-10-07 12:34:07

hendy [Member] said:

I get 'sharp', too, TTT. And as far as thread hijacking, mea culpa.

Truthy. Yeah, truthy.

Yet Ruth is a bit charmed by Hizzoner The Guv, so it might be tough to drag things out of his closet in her hallowed and revered spot. I bow to the hostess in this regard.

My fondest memory is when Hizzoner called the Speaker of the Badly Combed Over House of Indiana Representatives-- a terrorist. We could start there, if anyone's interested. Maybe it's the autumnal weather.... but I've about had it with propaganda.

2010-10-07 12:54:28

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Ah, but the juicy stuff on Daniels is just beginning. If the guy runs for president......

2010-10-07 13:25:38

jersey [unverified] said:

sorry to hijack the thread, but did anyone else think that it was over the top to have police officer William Philip's picture lying in his casket in yesterday's paper?
I don't recall ever seeing that before...not a clear view of a dead body, anyway.
I called Ryerson's office and the woman who answered the phone told me that she thought that the photo was "touching"...
Geez, am I that out of touch these days? I know that everything gets sensationalized and everything goes, but I thought it was in horrible taste.

2010-10-07 15:22:53

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

It was creepy, Jersey. Creepy.

But so was most of the over-the-top coverage. Nobody seemed ot be asking the right questions, just covering the minute-by-minute grief.

It's a tragedy, but if I were a bicycle officer, why would I need to train on a poorly-lit road at 1 AM? Huh? Wouldn't a vacant school parking lot do the trick?

Sad. Those poor kids. The poor lady who hit him...whatever her reason, she didn't stop, which is probably gonna land her in prison. I don't know...she may be a serial killer, but somehow, I doubt it. I saw her on TV, exiting the Courthouse, and she looked dazed. She was, quite simply, EveryWoman.

A bunch of losers and not one winner. Yet, the editor's assistant thinks it was "touching."

"They're all a little daft but me and thee, McGee, and I'm a little concerned about thee."

2010-10-07 15:47:19

indykjsharp [Member] said:

Cha-ching! Fourth estate loses. Ignorance is strength, freedom is slavery, etc.

2010-10-07 15:51:06

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

And, speaking of the Star's descent down that slippery slope of advertorial, what say you all about having a reputable PR flack (Jen Schmits Thomas) writing all the travel copy in the paper. Like today, even.

Methinks it would be soooooo easy to use that gig as a way of recruiting clients. Or rewarding existing clients.

Good heavens. What are they using for brains over there at 307 N. Penn?

2010-10-07 16:36:11

hendy [Member] said:

Slip slidin' away.....

2010-10-07 17:01:33

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

The travel thing has been a whorish situation for 20 years.

More whoreish now? I can't really tell. My Whore Meter is broken.

From overuse.

2010-10-07 17:43:53

indykjsharp [Member] said:

Yeah, reputable PR flacks should be seen only on the opinion pages.

2010-10-07 18:42:03

whosear [Member] said:

TTT...Quayle was a B- student in law school...my colleague worked in the School of Liberal Arts Recorders Office and checked it before it was blocked.

ruthholl if you think it is repressed same-sex lust that drives the bathroom crowd or love, then you are off course. It is the thrill that drives them.

2010-10-07 22:06:45

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Uh, Whosear, your colleague looked at someone else's records.

2010-10-08 05:09:29

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Nothing but sad situations for all concerned.

As far as the gov's appointees, a few have soured the barrel-- Esther Q and Mitch R in particular. I don't see that Andy Miller is in that particular category. By all accounts he is a nice chap, he has done a good job with the BMV (it is vastly improved over previous years), and is a cancer survivor. It's too bad he picked that time and place to set Mr Winkie free.

The funeral photo was simultaneously touching and creepy, likely because we don't see Dead People in the newspaper as in the old days, when mangling car accidents were front page fodder. I worked in NYC during a famous mob hit and several papers competed to see who could get the most ghoulsih photo, the winner being the Post with a full front page pic of the deceased Godfather with a cigar in his mouth and bullet hole in his eye. Ah, them were the good ol days.

2010-10-08 07:46:55

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