Thursday, December 11, 2008

Klein's Salary: News Coverage is Modest

IRVINE, Ca. -- Approval of a $150,000, half-time salary for CIRM Chairman Robert Klein generated light news coverage both Wednesday and today.

The San Diego Union-Tribune actually had a reporter, Terri Somers, on the scene here in Irvine, where CIRM directors met the last two days. It was the only mainstream media outlet to cover the session, which included more far-reaching decisions than salary matters, such as an aggressive plan to spend $210 million to push development of clinical therapies.

Somers' story quoted Klein, Duane Roth, who has been nominated for the vice chairman's job, and John M. Simpson, stem cell project director of Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., on the salary issue.

Simpson, who has looked at askance at high salaries at CIRM, said the most important matter was not the money for Klein but the fact that board defined the chairman's job as half-time. Prop. 71 gives the chairman a host of responsibilities, some of which conflict with the president's. Klein also has very much acted as an executive chairman, including micro-managing details at CIRM, according to some observers.

Other stories were written by Shane Goldmacher of The Sacramento Bee and Ron Leuty of the San Francisco Business Times. Here are links to Leuty's story and Goldmacher's account.

The continuing light news coverage of CIRM is a sign of the hard economic times at the mainstream media, particularly newspapers. It also reflects the declining novelty factor at CIRM. The organization was created four years ago by voters and now is approaching the news value level of nearly all state agencies. And that is virtually nil.

Traditionally state agencies, with rare exceptions, are all but ignored by the mainstream media. Given the difficult decisions news organizations currently must make concerning deployment of ever declining resources (reporters), coverage of CIRM is certain to shrivel in the future. The exception would be a scandal or a major scientific breakthrough.

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