The University of Southern California has announced the staff of its newly formed California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting. That includes the editor-in-chief, the managing editor, and three senior writers.
If you're looking for the names of some of our distinguished colleagues among the new hires, look no further. They're not there. Only one of the five new hires is said to have any background in health reporting, and she seems to be more of an environmental writer than a health reporter.
Michael Parks, the former editor of the Los Angeles Times, who did the hiring, knows science writers. I don't know how close he was to the science staff at the Times, but he was on the advisory committee for the Marine Biological Laboratory summer journalism fellowships (with me) for several years, where he worked with science writers.
This hiring seems misguided. It's like staffing a new reporting initiative to cover cricket with American reporters who'd never seen a game. They'd file something, I'm sure, but it wouldn't be pretty. Nor would their stories benefit from any experience or insight into what they were covering.
This amounts to the same thing, doesn't it?
*Update 3/25: I should have said that I mean no disrespect whatever to the reporters and editors who've been hired. They seem like capable people. I'm just arguing that they might not be the right people for the job, however capable they are.
- Paul Raeburn