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Opinion

Grass-roots health news services forming in other states

Three other grass-roots news services inspired by Health News Florida are now in operation and others are testing the water, I discovered at the Association of Health Care Journalists' four-day conference in Atlanta.

The meeting, which ended Sunday, offered numerous fact-filled seminars; I'll pull some of that information into story form later this week.

But I couldn't wait to tell you the good news, that the fight to keep serious coverage of health issues alive is spreading. Of course, these small non-profits can't fill all the holes left by the loss of experienced reporters on newspapers. But it's something.

The three that I know about and that are already up and operating are:

--  Georgia Health News, founded by long-time Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Andy Miller;

-- North Carolina Health News,  founded by Rose Hoban, a former public radio reporter;

-- The Lund Report, founded by Diane Lund, who spent many years reporting on health for the Oregon Health Forum, a non-profit that closed at the end of 2009.

 I have deliberately omitted from the list two well-run state groups, California Health News and Kansas Health News. They are in a whole different category -- those with deep pockets because they are directly affiliated with foundations. They are in the same category as Kaiser Health News, a national non-profit news service.

The Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, which sponsors Kaiser Health News, is not a grant-making organization and thus does not provide any funds to state news organizations. So unless a state has a large foundation committed to funding health journalism, as in California and Kansas, it is difficult to get a news service up and keep it running.

Health News Florida has been fortunate to have grant support from a number of foundations since its incorporation (under the previous name Florida Health News) in December 2006 and launch in 2007. Today, three continue to contribute: Health Foundation of South Florida, Winter Park Health Foundation and Jessie Ball duPont Fund in Jacksonville.

But they want us to ramp up fund-raising from others, and we hope to develop those skills in the months to come. After all, we serve as a role model for the news services popping up in other states. 

I know about the three I listed above because their editors came to the journalism conference. I expect there may be others who couldn't make the trip. 

With help from the journalism association, we intend to form a listserv so that we can help one another figure out best practices. As the longest-running grass-roots group, Health News Florida can certainly help the newer services avoid some pitfalls.

Please make a tax-deductible donation, with a check made to our financial sponsor Health Foundation of South Florida and earmarked for us. Send to:

Health Foundation of South Florida
Attention Debra Johnson
One Biscayne Tower
2 South Biscayne Blvd., Suite 1710
Miami, FL 33131
 

Many thanks!

--Health News Florida is an independent non-profit news service dedicated to journalism in the public interest. Editor Carol Gentry can be reached at 727-410-3266 or by e-mail.