It has officially banned the California Stem Cell Report from information it circulates to its board of directors and staff. Some employees say staff morale has improved as a result, the agency declares.
Like many other state agencies, CIRM collects news clippings and other information pertinent to its operations and circulates them to a selected audience. For some time (a couple of years, as we understand it), items from this blog were included in the electronic clippings sent to directors. They were also included in clippings sent to grant recipients.
Last year, CIRM unceremoniously dumped the California Stem Cell Report from the clippings to the grant recipients. A while back, we heard scuttlebutt that CIRM's 29 directors no longer had the great pleasure of reading our items, at least courtesy of CIRM. No matter, a mere piffle, we thought. Last week, we heard the report again. So we asked Don Gibbons, CIRM's chief communications officer, whether this "shocking" rumor was correct. Yes, he replied. Gibbons said,
"Before I arrived, all citizen blogs, yours and (patient advocate) Don Reed’s, were dropped from the clips that went to the grantees because it was viewed as too much information they did not care about. They wanted the research news in the rest of the clips. But this required paying extra to create two sets of clips, sending the full clips with the blogs to the board and internal staff. I decided it was not worth the extra cost, and started sending the shorter version to everyone. The service has slipped up and let a couple of Reed’s columns get in, but I have asked them to make sure that does not happen. Eliminating both eliminates bias in the package, and frankly, several in-house staff have said morale has improved since your posts have been removed."But then we wondered about unordained flackery from various enterprises that has been distributed by CIRM as part of its official "news." Yes, Gibbons said in response to our question; PR releases are picked up from the Ascribe PR network, which specializes in pumping nonprofit-oriented publicity into mainstream newsrooms at as much as $300 a pop. Ascribe's clients include Scripps, Burnham, the University of California, AARP and the National Association of Social Workers.
Musing about all this, we sent off a query to Consumer Watchdog's John M. Simpson, a skilled practitioner of flackery, as well as a former newspaper editor and longtime observer of California stem cell affairs. He replied,
"After reading the California Stem Cell Report daily for more-than-two-and-a-half years, I know how dangerous and subversive it is.Aghast we were. Do you really mean that, John, we promptly emailed him back.
"I only let my wife read it under my direct supervision and would never contemplate allowing my adult children to see it."
"In this day of Google searches and alerts, I'm hard pressed to understand why anyone would pay anything to have any clips circulated. As for the California Stem Cell Report, I certainly don't agree with all the views expressed there, but I don't understand how anyone interested in CIRM and stem cell research would notoi check it daily. It has become the publication of record on all stem cell related issues in California. If I were CIRM's president I'd make it required daily reading for all employees and would encourage ICOC members to check it frequently."(Editor's note: We have updated the masthead information at the top of this page to reflect our current status with the world's largest source of funding for human embryonic stem cell research.)