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Kaiser Health News

I'm pretty excited by the launch of Kaiser Health News. And not just because it's an outlet that promises to provide me with even more health wonkery, or because it means the brilliant Kate Steadman has a blog again.

In March, Clay Shirky argued that "society doesn't need newspapers. What we need is journalism." Kaiser Health News is an effort to give us journalism. It employs veteran journalists, commissions articles from other veteran journalists and offers those articles to a variety of outlets, many of them struggling.

In doing, it cleaves content production from distribution. There's no reason we should expect the Baltimore Sun to be the best at both producing and distributing a newspaper in Baltimore and the best at covering health reform. Kaiser's hope is that they can do the work of guiding and providing great health-care journalism and the Sun, for example, can do the work of distributing it. Which makes sense. Adam Smith wasn't sold on specialization for nothing.

Indeed, you can argue that this model isn't so much new as the maturation of something old. Kaiser Health News does something similar to what the Associated Press does. They just do away with the artificial strictures that the wire services place on themselves (short, dry, etc). The AP has always been seen as a third party providing supplementary content. KHN is the first step toward third parties contributing the primary content.

And that's probably better for readers. Regional newspapers are probably best suited to generating regional news. If they're also going to provide national content -- and that, right now, is core to their offerings -- there's no reason they shouldn't outsource it to specialists in the field.

By Ezra Klein  |  June 1, 2009; 5:48 PM ET
Categories:  Journalism  
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I'm a fan of lots of things The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation does and Kaiser Health News is no exception. But I do not like the fact that they only push a sentence or two via RSS. I use RSS for a reason and only providing a snippet defeats it. (Yes, I notified them of my disappointment. I hope others do so as well.)

Posted by: TheIncidentalEconomist | June 1, 2009 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Well, there is a kind of objection to newspapers outsourcing national content to experts. It's called the press release. (Yeah, it's also an objection to doing the work inhouse with a bunch of nonspecialists, and maybe explicit outsourcing is better. But really it just kicks many of the same problems about sourcing down the field a bit.)

Posted by: paul314 | June 3, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

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