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Spreading the news for a healthier Georgia

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Spreading the news for a healthier Georgia

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March 7, 2010

A new public health news bureau, staffed by University of Georgia graduate students, will soon give voice to people and health-related issues often overlooked in the state. Student reporters from the health and medical journalism concentration in UGA's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication will supply stories for print, radio and television outlets throughout Georgia.

The project is funded by the Healthcare Georgia Foundation. Created in 1999 as an independent private foundation, its mission is to advance the health of all Georgians and to expand access to affordable, quality healthcare for underserved individuals and communities.

"The public health news bureau is a 21st century riff on a traditional wire service," said Patricia Thomas, Grady's Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism and head of the graduate concentration. "It gives our students a chance to show what they've learned about covering health, and to be paid for their hard-won professional skills."

High infant mortality, soaring obesity rates and an aging public health workforce are among the public health stories that are seldom told in Georgia, noted Thomas. As a result, many voters and policymakers don't realize that Georgia's per capita spending on health is about a nickel a day-near the bottom of national rankings.

Student reporters will be paid with funding from the Healthcare Georgia Foundation, which was awarded in late December. A major trend story written by a student is expected to pay about $750, with additional compensation for photographs and video. Research expenses also will be covered. Over the next two years, a $46,000 grant to Grady College will be used to pay students to do this work.

Experienced editors at Hayslett Group LLC, an Atlanta-based communications firm, will negotiate news bureau assignments, work with students as they report stories, and edit the stories for publication and broadcast.

"The news bureau challenges students to tell complex, in-depth stories that have become financially out-of-reach for many news organizations in recent years," Thomas said. Georgia news organizations will not be charged for publishing or broadcasting what the students produce.

The public health news bureau is part of a larger, two-year program called Advancing Public Health in Georgia. This initiative is funded solely by the Healthcare Georgia Foundation through a $307,500 award to the Hayslett Group. The firm's founder and CEO, Charlie Hayslett, is a 1973 Grady College alumnus and serves on the Grady College Board of Trust, the college's advisory board.