Monday, December 1, 2008

New Gates Grant for Global Health News

An announcement is due later today from The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is giving WETA, co-producer of The NewsHour, a $3.5 million grant over the next three years to cover global health issues. Foundation-funding of publicly funded news programs like The NewsHour is becoming more and more important as other sources of money, like corporate-funding, dry up.

Other recent investments in global health news coverage by the Gates Foundation include:

1. A nearly $1 million, three-year grant for National Public Radio in 2006.

2. A $5 million, three-year grant for Public Radio International in 2007.

This latest move suggests the Gates Foundation has made a strategic decision to fund news-coverage directly, as opposed to, say, training for journalists in global health issues. In 2007, the Gates Foundation gave the Knight Foundation $1.7 million over three years for health fellowships for journalists in sub-Saharan Africa. Earlier this year, however, the Gates Foundation chose not to renew its three-year grant to the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.

The Nieman Foundation is continuing its global health program—although it will award two fellowships next year instead of three.

I’m very interested to see how the Gates-funded NewsHour navigates the challenge of reporting on global health programs that are funded by the Gates Foundation and of interviewing experts who are also receiving funding from the Gates Foundation.

Full disclosure: I received a 2008 Nieman Fellowship for Global Health Reporting. The Gates Foundation had no say in the choice of my field project. And I dealt with even the potential appearance of a conflict-of-interest issue by focusing on the nursing brain drain in Malawi—an issue that, as far as I can tell, has received no Gates funding.

Updated to add Knight Foundation information.

5 comments:

Annie said...

Thank you for reporting about this.

I read your work, and it is critical. Have you considered offering it to the International Council of Nurses in support of its work to strengthen nursing and patient advocacy around the world?

I posit that there is a critical nursing brain drain (or as I call it, bright flight) here in the US to the extent that nursing is a failing profession and the public's lives are endangered. I rant on interminably about these issues, but do not have supporters or even interested readers. I can only hope that it's because I'm wrong, despite the evidence.

Christine Gorman said...

Thanks, Annie. My print piece on the Malawi trip is still awaiting publication. And there are journalism/advocacy issues with giving it "in support of a cause."

But these are issues we should all be discussing as the ability to self-publish what might be considered "orphan news" meets better-funded efforts on more familiar topics.

Christine Gorman said...

I see Mediabistro/DC has received the press release. Silly me, I could have posted the release and left it at that without giving even a little context. http://tinyurl.com/578wa9

Anonymous said...

Thanks Christine for drawing global attention to this, we would keep our fingers crossed and see HOW the NewsHour handles this task of reporting global health issues in the next 3 years. All of these confirm the direction of journalism and how professions are helping to shape the future of this noble profession. Good job there!

Wendy Dalton said...

Dear Christine,

Global health of course means educating everyone everywhere in hopes that improvements in the lives of those affected are the result. The two I am interested in spreading the word on is cauda equina syndrome which affects about 2,000 known cases in the world and destroys lives. The second is Stiff Persons Syndrome of which only 125 are registered. This also destroys families. I have had both for 15 years. I was not treated as they were not recognized until this year. Now it may be too late for me but many people and lives can be made better through education. I am creating an educational package with the help of friends. My prognosis is unknown. Any suggestions? I have suffered tremendously as have others with cauda equina syndrome. I can connect about 100 people world wide who are in contact with me. This is definately Global. We believe because it is not generally known or understood by the medical communities around the world the word needs to be publisized. I have stories.