DENVER, COLORADO — Solutions, launched on December 1st, 2010, is an independent, nonprofit news platform on health policy issues in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West. Solutions draws its inspiration from the format and niche content of another local news site, Education News Colorado. According to Solutions editor Diane Carman, the site “avoids the political back and forth that traditional media covers endlessly. Solutions considers its mission to give more nuanced information about healthcare issues that goes beyond reporting what politician voted for what healthcare policy and the impact on his or her career.”
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Carman worked for nearly ten years as a metro columnist for the Denver Post before leaving journalism in 2007 to become the director of communications at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver. A number of faculty members at the school were fans of EdNews Colorado, and, realizing that the school had just acquired a rare commodity in Carman, approached her about starting a similar venture in a different public policy area. Carman spent two years talking to leaders in various fields to measure interest and found–not surprisingly, as this was around the time of the 2008 presidential elections–that there was a big appetite for news and analysis in the health policy field.
The site is headquartered at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado, Denver and its core staff includes Carman, who serves as editor while retaining her responsibilities as the school’s director of communications, and Katie Kerwin McCrimmon, a former reporter for the Rocky Mountain News who now writes for Solutions full-time. Student interns from UC Denver also contribute to the site.
Solutions features four to six original stories a week, including two opinion pieces solicited from outside sources that are experts in the community on specific issues. The site also collaborates with other media outlets including Rocky Mountain PBS, which features original stories from Solutions in the Reports section of its website. Though Solutions’s coverage is limited to Colorado, it aggregates the most important national health policy stories every day.
Carman says that the site’s top priority during its early stages is to be read by health industry insiders and policymakers. Its stories, however, are written with a general audience in mind, and the long-term goal of the site is to expand readership among citizens who are eager for clarity on a topic that has been overrun by political gamesmanship.
The Piton Foundation and The Colorado Health Foundation provide current funding for Solutions. The site also receives an in-kind donation of office space from the University of Colorado, Denver. Solutions is currently looking into alternative funding sources, including sponsorship from organizations interested in health policy. Solutions does not have an employee dedicated to the business or fundraising side of its operations, but is seeking funding to underwrite that position.
In its short life, Solutions has already done a great deal to shed light on the health policy debate in Colorado. Looking towards the site’s evolution, Carman hopes to do more to wed the site’s reporting to the debate taking place in the statehouse and in the streets. Carman has been calling politicians and representatives of advocacy groups and inviting them to write opinion pieces on topical issues. “We have had pieces written by members of Congress and state officials, prominent authors and physicians, and others,” she says. Carman would like to make the site the kind of place where people are encouraged to interact and debate. Given the topic at hand, this might sound like poking a hornet’s nest. Then again, the health policy debate is a hornet’s nest desperately in need of poking.
City: DenverDohini Patel is a contributor to CJR.