Center for Health Reporting partners with Sun-Star to publish "Houses of Blues" series
Posted January 29, 2010
By Jonathan Arkin
The Jan. 29 issue of the Merced Sun-Star featured a front-page series on the foreclosure climate in northern California, reported by the USC Annenberg-based California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting headed by journalism professor Michael Parks.
Parks (pictured, right), who is the founding director of the grant-funded Center, said the Sun-Star series "Houses of Blues" — focusing on how the recession is impacting issues of mental health — fit the greater mandate of the Foundation, which seeks to improve the way health care is delivered and financed in California by promoting innovations in care and broader access to information.
“This is one of the most important experiments underway in philanthropically financed journalism,” said Parks, who will chair the Center’s advisory board. “They are going to be really good examples of storytelling that put into a larger framework problems that need attention, that need resolution. We hope that they cause a public discussion that builds toward solutions … and that readers will be mobilized to care more about their neighbors, communities, and take up these problems as they talk across their back fence.”
The Center, which was developed at Annenberg in partnership with the Foundation, has delighted Parks with its ability to mobilize communities to enact social change.
“Our model is to work with newspapers and eventually public broadcasting, radio stations, potentially with local Web sites, to do projects about issues in health policy,” Parks said. “We highlight problems but we also work to report on possible solutions to those problems by getting a public discussion underway with the goal of increasing civic engagement on those issues.”
The Sun-Star series, which is slated to appear over a course of two days, serves as an example of how the Center’s expertise was shared with a smaller-market paper.
“We also try to do build capacity by having our reporters and editors work with local reporters,” Parks said. “Our staff has experience working with big projects. Sometimes a staff at a small paper may not have that experience.”
Ultimately, Parks said, the Center’s model shared an altruistic motive with journalism.
“This is the journalism of empowerment,” Parks said. “We believe that by making the people smarter about the problems and solutions, that they can take action. And we can’t make them solve the problems. We’re journalists. We need to focus on things that need to be fixed, that people care about, to show what solutions can be found.
"I’ve had a question since I’ve been here on how journalism schools at research universities such as USC can improve the practice of journalism, to improve the performance of society, and thus this is an important experiment. It is applied research, and it’s exactly what a top research university should be doing."
California HealthCare Foundation Enter USC Annenberg News Archive »back to top
"Houses of Blues" series