Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Reviewing Today's Coverage of the Stem Cell Agency

The San Francisco and San Diego newspapers carried stories this morning on actions involving the California stem cell agency, dealing with intellectual property and lawsuits against CIRM.

Missing were reports from the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, both of which covered the stem cell meeting Tuesday in Duarte. However, we would expect to see pieces from them, perhaps on Thursday.

The Oversight Committee meeting ended late in the day, making it difficult to file a story for the next day's papers. The reporters involved may well be working on a different type of piece than the usual daily report on what was relatively routine action – at least in terms of conventional news values.

Which brings us to one of the reasons for the existence of the blog. Conventional news values put a severe limit on the amount and depth of information available in newspapers concerning the agency. Newspapers emphasize high profile events and conflicts. When matters are relatively routine, attention wanes. They have little interest in the type of details that are important to those with a deep interest in a subject. The rather sparse coverage of intellectual property issues, over the last few months, involving the stem agency is one example. IP is technical, complex and marginally understood by editors, many of whom view their own intellectual product (the daily newspaper) as having little lasting value. Once it is a day old, it is fish wrap material.

One of our goals is to carry more information and analysis on issues of concern to the California stem cell community than is available through the mainstream media, to use an expression which has already become an Internet cliché. Much of it has little conventional news value so you are not likely to find it in the press. If you would like to weigh in our performance or have suggestions for additional coverage, just click on the "comments" link at the end of this posting. You can even do it anonymously.

But back to today's coverage. Reporter Terri Somers of the San Diego Union Tribune wrote a piece on the IP action by the agency. Her story began:

"Scientists who make a patentable discovery with grant money from California's fledgling stem cell institute will be able to retain ownership of that discovery under an interim policy approved yesterday by the committee overseeing the institute."

Reporter Carl Hall of the San Francisco Chronicle focused on developments in the lawsuit against CIRM.

He wrote that foes of the agency "face tight deadlines for gathering evidence, which may include depositions from the 29 members of the stem cell institute's governing board, known as the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, as well as outside participants in advisory working groups."

"'Our goal is to win,' said Dana Cody, executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation in Sacramento, one of the attorneys working on the case.
"She and her allies clearly have no plans to drop the litigation even if they lose at trial. Barring some 'glaring factual discovery,' Cody said, 'we will be going on to the appeals court and then to the Supreme Court if we have to,'" according to Hall's story.
We should note that the stem cell agency is a bigger story for San Francisco and San Diego than other areas. San Francisco is the home to the agency and has the largest concentration of biotech firms in the state. San Diego comes in a close second. Both cities have substantial stem cell research communities as well.

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