Friday, July 27, 2012

News Coverage of CIRM Awards: Substantial but Not Extensive

The California stem cell agency today enjoyed substantial, if sparse, news coverage of the
$151 million in research funding approved by its board yesterday.

Both the San Francisco Chronicle and The Sacramento Bee carried solid stories on the grant awards. In the case of the Chronicle, the story included compelling photos of patients who spoke during emotional, tear-filled presentations.

The stories represent a modest change from the past, when media outlets all but ignored the agency's awards.

The Bee's Richard Chang wrote,
“For Melissa Biliardi of Santa Maria, the (CIRM board) vote symbolizes hope. Her son, James Birdsall, 32, was diagnosed four years ago with Huntington's disease. The degenerative brain disorder could prove fatal over the next 10 to 15 years. There is currently no cure or treatment, but with the grant, UC Davis researchers hope to deliver an effective therapy in four years.
"'This is the most hope we've ever had for a cure or treatment,' Biliardi said.”
The Chronicle's Erin Allday wrote,
“California's stem cell funding agency on Thursday approved nearly $100 million in grants for research into heart disease, cancer and spinal cord injuries, and to the cheers of dozens of patients and their supporters, it also awarded money to rare but devastating diseases with no cure.”
The articles demonstrated the effectiveness of patients and patient advocates in telling the CIRM story. Reporters are always looking for a warm human dimension – especially to enhance a dry, bare-bones science and government story.

Responding to a question from the California Stem Cell Report, Kevin McCormack, spokesman for CIRM, also mentioned radio news coverage in the San Francisco Bay Area. He said the awards were covered in “two different stories on KCBS-AM radio, one that ran several times yesterday and another that ran several times today. KGO-AM radio also ran a story several tim, and, of course, the best of all, today's KQED-FM Forum.”

The KQED show, which was also carried nationally on Sirius radio, consisted of an hour-long look at CIRM, with some calls from listeners. Guests on the show were CIRM President, Alan Trounson, UC Davis stem cell researcher Jan Nolta and yours truly, David Jensen.

Other stories appeared in the SanFrancisco Business Times and Genetic Engineering News. The Bee's story appeared in the Modesto Bee as well.
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