Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Checking in on Skimpy Media Coverage of the $3 Billion California Stem Cell Program

The Capitol Weekly website, a must read for state policy makers and legislators, published an article yesterday involving California's stem cell agency. The article began like this,
"A small firm in Menlo Park is probably the only company in the nation that is named after the number of a particular human protein. It is a small number too, only 47. But it has large implications for California’s financially strapped state stem cell agency."
The piece pulled together the events of last week involving the purchase of Forty Seven, Inc., a grantee of the stem cell agency, by Gilead Sciences, Inc., for $4.9 billion. It was the lead story on Capitol Weekly for much of yesterday.

The political and governmental news website is a case where California stem cell news reaches an important audience not normally attuned to what emanates from the stem cell agency's headquarters in Oakland.  

While regular readers of the California Stem Cell Report are familiar with many aspects of the Forty Seven deal and its significance, that is not necessarily the case with the readers of Capitol Weekly. They consist of "elected officials and staff, political professionals, activists, academics and regular state employees," according to its web site. Capitol Weekly is also something of an institution and has been publishing, first in print and then online, since the 1980s.  

As our readers are aware, news coverage of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) in the mainstream media is virtually non-existent, which poses a challenge for the agency as it hopes for voter approval of a proposed ballot measure next fall to give it an additional $5.5 billion. 

Mainstream coverage of the agency and the ballot measure will step up next fall, but the news media has severe financial and staffing limitations. Most of their efforts will go to cover the presidential race and matters that have more perceived, immediate impact on California. 

Capitol Weekly has a special niche that reaches influential folks and opinion leaders in the state Capitol. The California Stem Cell Report has an arrangement with Capitol Weekly in which it often picks up items from this site after they are published here. This writer also sometimes writes a piece for Capitol Weekly that is tailored to its audience, which does not necessarily want or need as much detail as many of the readers of the California Stem Cell Report. Yesterday's story on Capitol Weekly is one example. 

The media environment is tough right now for coverage of science-oriented stories or small state agencies, with the exception of such things as the coronavirus. But it is a reality that confronts the campaign on behalf of the $5.5 billion initiative to keep CIRM alive. 

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