New Cronkite partnership looks to bolster healthcare reporting

The Cronkite School will partner with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on a new professional program coming fall 2019

While healthcare news pertains to virtually everyone, leadership at ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication has noticed that some populations have a greater lack of access to healthcare reporting than others.

That is a problem they hope to fix with a new professional program coming fall 2019.

A partnership between the Cronkite School and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation aims to create a professional program under Cronkite News that will bolster healthcare reporting on the Southwest, said Kristin Gilger, the Senior Associate Dean at the Cronkite School.

The program will focus particularly on Native American and Latino populations as well as other underserved communities "who just don’t have great access to in depth, accurate and responsible health care information, reporting, and news," Gilger said.

The program will be available to undergraduate students and graduate students enrolled in Cronkite News, she said. Gilger said for graduate students, the school will recruit those who have a particular interest in healthcare reporting for their master's program.

Gilger said she will lead the program until it is up and running, but the Cronkite School will be looking in the spring of 2019 to hire two professors of practice who will work directly with students in the program.

“This is an important area for us to step in, because there is a dearth of healthcare reporting in the world, particularly the Southwest, and most news organizations don’t have a dedicated healthcare reporter,” Gilger said.

Additionally, Cronkite News executive editor Christina Leonard said that the program will train students to cover a field that many employment opportunities will want covered.

“There are a lot of jobs out there, because people care about their health and want to read about it,” Leonard said.

The size of Cronkite News lends itself well to housing the new program, she said.

“Because Cronkite News has such a large staff, we have the opportunity to go places," Leonard said. "If we want to send a team out to the border to cover an issue, we can, and I think that’s an amazing opportunity for students."

Cronkite News already has a health beat directed by Cronkite professor of practice Venita James, but they’re looking to more fully develop it, Leonard said.

“We recognize healthcare reporting is an important issue, and we want to continue to devote more resources to it,” she said. 

Cronkite saw the opportunity to partner with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation because they were both interested in improving access to quality healthcare reporting, said Cronkite professor of practice Julia Wallace.

Wallace said that the foundation wants to create a world in which everyone is healthier, and that when looking at certain communities, their health outcomes are significantly worse than those of others.

“If you’re Native American or you live on the border here, you are likely to die earlier and have more health issues,” Wallace said. “And there’s really great stories to be written, there are great personal stories, and great policy stories, so having a team that’s really focused on telling those stories, especially to the people mostly impacted, I think will be really fabulous.”

Students who enroll in the new healthcare program can expect to work with other students in Cronkite News who are a part of their borderlands and sustainability beats.

The healthcare content will also be published in both English and Spanish, Wallace said.

“I expect we will produce some award-winning content that really hopefully makes a difference, changes policies, people’s points of views, and changes how people live their lives,” Wallace said.

Gilger said there is a discussion about adding a healthcare reporting course to Cronkite’s curriculum, which would prepare students to enter the healthcare journalism professional program at Cronkite News, but said that it would likely be added in the spring of 2020.

There will also be a Must See Monday event on April 22 at the First Amendment Forum, where Leonard will discuss the program in detail and express the importance of healthcare reporting. 

Students interested in healthcare journalism can apply again this year for the week-long training session offered through the Mayo Clinic - Cronkite Medical Journalism Fellowship, said Wallace, who runs the fellowship.

The fellowship brings in the top 15 medical journalists in the field to work with students, she said.

For students interested in healthcare reporting, they can attend the Must See Monday for more information about the program that will take effect next year.


Reach the reporter at brnewma1@asu.edu and follow @brookerae17 on Twitter.

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