Modesto Bee’s new health reporter talks of switch from doctor to journalist
There is a movement taking hold in news organizations — including ours — and it’s tied to philanthropy and the role it can play in building stronger communities through local journalism.
We’ve seen it grow in other places, including the Northwest, where the Seattle Times, through endowment support, has hired reporters who cover everything from homelessness to education to transportation. The Boston Globe, through a $600,000 grant from a foundation focused on secondary education, will launch an investigative team to explore public school programs in Massachusetts.
These are critical issues being brought to light by solutions-based journalism, which creates discussion and searches for answers around complex problems facing residents.
No media entity in the county has the reach of The Modesto Bee. Every month we reach hundreds of thousands of people via stories and videos, and through newsletters, the printed paper and in-person events. And yet we want to do more. Because this community deserves it.
Last fall, we were asked to apply for a grant through The GroundTruth Project, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that supports local journalism efforts. Through its Report for America initiative, GroundTruth looked to add reporters to newsrooms in coverage areas that could have community impact.
The grant had a two-step process: After a newsroom was selected and a reporter hired, GroundTruth would fund half of the writer’s annual salary. In turn, the chosen newsroom would find funding for the other half — from an outside source like local agencies, endowments, family trusts, crowd-sourcing, etc. A firewall would be put in place so that the newsroom would maintain all control over editorial content.
As journalists, we’re trained to follow the money, not ask for it. Luckily for me, and as I’ve learned in my nearly 30 years of living in Modesto, our community is rich with people and agencies who step up to the plate.
Scott Kuykendall, who won election last year as SCOE’s new superintendent, and Marian Kaanon, president and chief executive officer for the Stanislaus Community Foundation, didn’t hesitate when we shared our story — and our idea.
The focus of our new reporter — ChrisAnna Mink — is children’s health. We felt for a community to thrive, we need our young ones physically and emotionally fit. Approaching the beat in a solutions-based manner would allow ChrisAnna, a pediatrician and journalist, to connect with parents, children, educators and health professionals to get a deeper understanding of the issues, to find solutions and spread useful information.
When it comes to physical and emotional health, there are a lot of issues facing children in Stanislaus County as we discovered at our well-received California Priorities Influencers event at the Gallo Center for the Arts earlier this month
The impact of trauma. Cell phone use. Obesity. Lack of access to physicians. Asthma. Vaping. These, and other issues, touch the home, the classroom and our community.
We felt a reporter dedicated solely to peeling the layers off these problems could shine a light long enough to find solutions.
That light never gets turned on without the support of the Stanislaus Office of Education, the Stanislaus Community Foundation and the GroundTruth Project.
Journalism is evolving, just as many other industries. We’ll continue to look ahead to find new ways forward so local journalism thrives long into the future.