Friday, December 12, 2008

Gates Foundation to fund health care coverage

From The New York Times:

A major limitation on journalists covering global health is the cost: getting to a story can mean airfare to Africa or Asia, hotels, Jeep rentals, satellite phones, translators, sometimes even armed guards.

Meanwhile, many news organizations are cutting back.

Now the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which spends billions on global health, is
taking a direct route to ensuring coverage.

Last week, “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” received a Gates Foundation grant of $3.5 million to help its correspondents produce 40 to 50 reports over three years on malaria, AIDS, tuberculosis, measles, neglected diseases and other global health issues.

It came with “no strings,” said Patti Parson, managing producer of “NewsHour,” which is seen on 315 PBS stations. If her reporters found a story critical of the foundation’s work and Mr. Gates objected, she said, “we’d let him defend it, of course, but we’d proceed with the story.”

This is the foundation’s most overt financing of health journalism, but not the first. It has given $6 million to WGBH in Boston for a series on global health; $5 million to Public Radio International, a partnership between American public radio and the BBC; $2 million to the International Center for Journalists to train African reporters; $1.2 million to Harvard for fellowships for health reporters; and $1.6 million to Johns Hopkins to send top editors on a fact-finding trip to poor countries.

And because fictional plotlines may be even more persuasive, it gave $1.4 million to a University of Southern California program that advises television and film writers on
medical issues.