All the News That Doesn’t Cost Us Anything

By: Harry Jaffe

The Washington Post has found a new way to cut costs: publish news without paying for it.

Tuesday’s Health & Science section leads with two articles written by reporters with Kaiser Health News. The relatively new operation is financed by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Its web site says KHN is “dedicated to producing and communicating the best possible analysis and information on health issues.” Its articles are available to “partner news organizations and the public free of charge.”

For the Post, using Kaiser Health News amounts to outsourcing the news at no cost. For the publisher, trying to save every dollar, it beats paying your own reporters.

Don’t get me wrong: Kaiser Health News is a legit news operation, based on the proposition that good journalism can come from newsrooms supported by nonprofits. Laurie McGinley, executive editor for news at KHN, is a veteran Washington reporter. She got her start at States News Service and wrote for the Wall Street Journal for 27 years and she covered national health care policy. The Kaiser staff is studded with veteran journalists from National Public Radio, the Baltimore Sun, and other newsrooms.

Kaiser Health News comes with ties to the Washington Post. Former Post executive editor Leonard Downie is chairman of its national advisory committee. Washington Post Company senior vice president Gerald Rosberg sits on the Kaiser Family Foundation board.

The foundation, which supports the news service, says it is “not associated” with health insurance giant Kaiser Permanente or Kaiser Industries. Industrialist Henry Kaiser and his wife Bess established the foundation in 1948.

It’s not likely that Henry and Bess could anticipate their money would wind up providing free news content for the Washington Post.

What the Post gains is a slight boost to its balance sheet by cutting editorial expenses. What it loses is a newspaper that readers come to for original content they cannot find elsewhere.

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