I’m always encouraged to hear of new collaborations in journalism, including this week’s news that the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal has joined forces with MedPage to produce to produce at least 10 articles on medical news “with an emphasis on the interface of science, industry, and public policy.”
While this partnership will make for interesting new content, I’m sure, I have another idea for local news organizations can work with medical professionals: Why not enlist doctors and nurses as community storytellers? Like police officers and teachers, medical professionals are on the front lines of community life every day. They encounter stories that are heartbreaking and stories that are inspirational. They have a rare vantage point on the community, but reporters typically only contact them when they want to know more about a disease or perhaps a public health emergency like swine flu. I think they have much more to offer than that.
I was awakened to this possibility last fall, during the “Health and the Blogosphere” get-together organized by the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships. These medical professionals were smart, insightful and excellent writers. They had an interesting range of stories to tell. They embraced the online world and were hip to social media. They sounded like good local reporters to me!
Here’s an idea for community foundations: The Knight Foundation’s Community Information Challenge offers matching funds to community foundations who propose projects that that inform and engage residents about pressing local issues. Why not approach your local newspaper or TV station with the possibility of recruiting local health professionals to serve as correspondents? Local news outlets are in need of fresh perspectives, and the financial crisis in traditional media has opened the door to new possibilities that previously would have been dismissed. Why not pursue them?