Two pillars of a healthy and informed society

We’re at a vital moment in our public conversations about what is necessary for a healthy and functioning society—physically and intellectually. The practices of journalism and health care connect deeply with every person’s life, with both immediate and long term repercussions. 

That connection requires that we reckon with the true purpose of these institutions in order to ensure their efficacy, ethics and sustainability in an increasingly unsure future, and build foundations and practices that are in alignment. 

The values and practices we prioritize now will have profound impacts on the health and agency of our society far into our future. 

This is why we are working on a research and writing project to examine these shared and disparate patterns. We’ve combined our backgrounds in narrative medicine, local journalism, ethics, and equitable access research into a project exploring the parallels between health care and journalism.

Journalism and health care occupy fascinating parallel positions in society with similarities and divergences through history and current challenges that pose a unique opportunity to examine what we can learn from each to inform where both fields may go in the future.

Across both fields, practitioners often cite the appeal of service to others as the reason they do the work, but how well and how equitably communities are truly being served is a pressing question.

The practices of health care and journalism are shaped, challenged, and threatened by the compromises that arise when simultaneously delivering a public service and seeking revenue, and are further distorted by the drive for profit or influence.

Both fields suffer from lack of access for underserved communities, deeply ingrained issues of diversity and representation, and questions of agency, ethics, autonomy, and participation from the people on the other side of the pen and stethoscope. 

Access to health care is a tumultuous challenge for millions of people while the spread of disinformation runs parallel with a reduction of local news reporting. A lack of diversity in both jeopardizes information flow and accountability.

In both arenas, we are reckoning with what it means to have access that fulfills the inherent promise of both practices while acknowledging and overcoming the ethical and practical shortcomings that manifest in both fields.

How can health care be not just available but accessible, inclusive, and affordable? How do we ensure journalism is not just a draft of history but information that holds the powerful accountable and empowers people to navigate their decisions with nuance?

How can the leaders of these fields reform recruitment, training, coaching and advancement so that practitioners better reflect and represent our communities? How do we open these processes so that people within their communities are empowered and equipped to enter the pipeline or participate in informing their communities?

We arrived at health care as a compelling analogous match for journalism because both share a pattern of prevention and treatment mechanisms, diverge strongly around monetization, and demand similar questions around ethics and access.

This cross-discipline examination is an opportunity to reflect on how we understand and design the delivery of services essential to healthy and informed society and to review underlying assumptions in how those services function and what we might change for the better.

Over the coming year, we’ll be researching and publishing research, analysis, and commentary that spans these two fields that are deeply connected to our daily lives as healthy and informed citizens.

We invite you to follow along as we explore the parallels between health care and journalism and search for solutions to make our communities healthier—physically, emotionally, and intellectually.

Who We Are

Heather Bryant is the founder and director of Project Facet, an open source infrastructure project that supports newsroom collaboration with tools to manage the logistics of creating, editing and distributing collaborative content, managing projects, facilitating collaborative relationships and sharing the best practices of collaborative journalism. As a 2016-2017 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford, she researched how to make collaboration more effective, equitable and inclusive. Her work is now branching into public facing and community inclusive collaborations facilitating the participation of the public in editorial conversations. Bryant works with the Membership Puzzle Project studying how newsrooms can create responsive and inclusive dynamics with low and no income audiences. She researches and writes about the intersection of class, poverty, technology and journalism ethics.

Shady Grove Oliver is a 2012 graduate of Columbia University’s Master of Science in Narrative Medicine program. While in the program, she was awarded the SCE Master of Science Innovation Scholarship for narrative journalism in the medical field and was named a fellow to the School of Authentic Journalism’s 2012 workshop, Organizing Journalism and Civil Resistance. Oliver has mentored high school journalism students through the Equinox Project and taught photography and journalism ethics with the Child Leader Project in Tamil Nadu, India. Since 2013, she has worked as a public radio, print, web, and photojournalist in Alaska and for the last four years has freelanced as the sole journalist for the only news outlet based above the U.S. Arctic Circle. She has covered the struggle to bring equitable health care to villages off the road system, and chronic and systemic health and wellness issues facing residents of the remote Arctic. In June, she helped coordinate and moderated a panel for ProPublica in the Alaska Native community of Kotzebue entitled Breaking the Silence: Stopping Sexual Assault and Child Abuse in Alaska.

What We’re Doing

You’ll be able to find our work here on this site. In addition, we’ll be placing a series of articles on our findings and analysis with publications along with a book compromising of all of our work. If you are a publisher interested in our research topic and would like to speak about running any of our articles or publishing the long-form final piece, please feel free to get in touch with us via email.