Thursday, January 24, 2013
Meager, Meager Coverage of Yesterday's IOM-Stem Cell Meeting
The $3 billion California stem cell agency seemed all but invisible this morning in terms of mainstream media coverage.
Only one major outlet reported on the watershed events yesterday at the CIRM governing board meeting at the Claremont Hotel in Oakland – at least from what our Internet searches show.
The piece was written by Bradley Fikes in the San Diego U-T, the dominant daily newspaper in that area, which is a major biotech center. The major media in the San Francisco Bay area, home to the stem cell agency and also a biotech center, were absent from the coverage.
Fikes wrote a straight forward account of the meeting, saying that the governing board voted “ to accept in concept proposed changes to reduce conflicts of interest on the agency's governing committee.”
Fikes wrote the story based on the audiocast of the meeting. He probably would not have written his daily piece without the availability of the audiocast.
Some of those connected with the stem cell agency often wonder about the lack of mainstream coverage of its doings, particularly the lack of favorable coverage.
Much of it has to do with the shriveled state of the media business, which is understaffed and overworked compared to 15 years ago. Specialized science reporters are all but an extinct species. Also, the mainstream media has traditionally ignored the affairs of most state agencies.
Speaking as a former editor at a major Northern California newspaper, I would not have sent a reporter to cover this week's two-day CIRM board meetings. It would have consumed too much valuable time with little likelihood of a major story, especially when weighed against other story possibilities. There was no guarantee that the board would have even acted. The events and their significance could be better handled in a roundup story later with more perspective, perhaps keying on the board's meeting in March, where details of yesterday's action will be fleshed out. The fact is that many, very important events occur within state government every day that never receive media attention. Some don't even see the light of day until a catastrophe occurs.
All of this may be deplorable in the eyes in stem cell agency backers and others, but it is the reality of today's news business.