• How will the different systems now on the market talk to one another? If your electronic medical record at the doctor’s office doesn’t work with the one in the ER when you’re brought in with a heart attack, what good is it?
• Who is making money from health IT? That journalistic maxim “follow the money” is important here.
• How will IT really lower costs without serious cost control measures used in other countries?
• What will make the nation’s autonomous and independent-minded health-care providers embrace the helpful aspects of the new technology?
Finally, let’s start by explaining to our audiences just what we mean by health information technology. Perhaps a lexicon is in order. –Trudy Lieberman
Will his “clean energy revolution” be a practical one?
Science and environment writers have long worked in relative newsroom obscurity, disconnected from mainstream politics, business, and culture. It is for their beat, more than any other, that Barack Obama’s inauguration signals a new prominence and relevance. The new president’s commitment to a clean energy revolution is one of the most expansive and challenging stories of our time. It will be science and environment reporters’ responsibility to inject more practicality into their coverage of that effort, however.
First and foremost, reporters must identify the tools that we have and the tools we need to accomplish such vast change in the global energy economy. Time magazine, for example, recently published a persuasive piece arguing that the United States could make significant progress by simply using efficient technologies already on the market. Its only shortcoming was that it did not address the opinion of many well respected scientists—including the new Energy Secretary, Steven Chu—who believe that the world needs new technologies to get the job done.
When covering those tools that still lie on our energy horizon, however, reporters must be careful to avoid sensationalism and defeatism alike. We recently criticized CNN for overselling an immature and fringe energy technology, but, likewise, outlets must not be afraid to revisit new and better generations of previously disappointing technologies like ethanol and batteries. In addition to these sources of energy, journalists must also pay more attention to our energy infrastructure. A “smart” national energy grid and an efficient passenger rail system are two of the obvious components of that infrastructure. A more inconspicuous, but no less important, piece of that infrastructure is our educational system and the need, as The New York Times has incisively put it, to inspire a culture of “innovation.”
Along the those lines, science and environment reporters need to communicate all of this practical information to their colleagues in politics, business, and other departments. Indeed, energy is revealing itself to be the most common denominator in the newsroom, crossing nearly every beat from healthcare to national security. President Obama seems to get that. As always, it is the press’s job to make sure. –Curtis Brainard