Curtis Brainard’s article about transparency in the Obama administration may leave readers with the impression that the Association of Health Care Journalists is getting nowhere in our struggle to open the doors at the Department of Health and Human Services.
On the contrary, we are encouraged by the response from Richard Sorian, who has been HHS assistant secretary for public affairs for the past year. It was Sorian who suggested the quarterly conversations with AHCJ leaders. At each one, he asks for details of our members’ experiences—positive and negative—with the media staff at the various HHS agencies. Sorian also volunteered to travel anywhere in the country to meet with local AHCJ chapters. Such efforts indicate that our complaints are being heard.
It’s true that I’m unsure whether anything has changed for reporters seeking information from the many HHS divisions. But that’s because change takes time and, in this case, is very hard to measure. It’s not because I have no hope.
Felice J. Freyer
Chair, Right to Know Committee
Association of Health Care Journalists
Where Are the Female Pundits?
I read with interest Paul Starobin’s story, “All the President’s Pundits” (CJR, September/October), but was struck by the fact that not a single woman was quoted. The only woman mentioned in the piece was Kathleen Parker, who was asked to join President Obama on Air Force One. While most of us aren’t able to travel in such company, there are many talented women writing about politics, in Washington and around the country. Are they not considered part of the nation’s punditry?
Editor, The Forward
New York, NY
Thank you, Chitrangada Choudhury, for writing about this emerging form of journalism (“Urgent Call,” CJR, September/October). I am involved with a community media organization called Gram Vaani, based in the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, which in Jharkhand in July launched a news-over-mobile-phone project similar to Swara, the project Choudhury writes about.
Systems like Swara and the Jharkhand mobile news service represent a new paradigm in journalism, which is low-cost and citizen-centric, and has the potential to expand media access to the disenfranchised in India’s rural areas. In the first forty days since our launch in Jharkhand, we logged sixty thousand phone calls, and the number of unique callers exceeded six thousand. These numbers indicate the need for systems like these that provide citizens a platform to voice their concerns.
Many mainstream journalists are taking an interest in these systems because of the urgent stories they release from conflict-hit zones. Unfortunately, many journalists who use these systems to get their leads to big stories hardly acknowledge their original source.
Sadly, while journalists are willing to use these systems to get their stories, no mainstream media organization is willing to help such initiatives sustain themselves. Unless and until business models are developed to sustain these systems, such initiatives will not survive in the long run. Once donor funds run out, the project will get pushed to the side. Sustaining such projects requires a paradigm shift in the way news organizations are structured and operate.