Today we unveil Public Health Watch, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news site that will focus on the prevention of illness, injury and death.
The timing is fortuitous, given the maddeningly resilient COVID-19 virus. But the idea of Public Health Watch has been percolating for more than two years. While we’re all preoccupied with the pandemic, at some point the scourge will end. What will be left are the mundane things that have been making us sick, hurting us and killing us all along: cancer, diabetes, heart disease, mental illness, drug addiction and – as we show in our inaugural collaborative project – plain old heat.
America doesn’t do prevention well. We’ve known this for a long time, but COVID-19 has made it even more obvious. We spend far more on treatment than we do addressing the sources of our misery: toxic chemicals in our air and water, tobacco, alcohol, gun violence, unsafe workplaces. We starve local health departments and regulatory agencies of funding, then get annoyed with them for not protecting us.
Public Health Watch, which I’m starting after more than 40 years in journalism, will emphasize accountability, with the aim of exposing injustices. We’ll press elected officials, regulators and corporate executives to explain why people who live within a few miles of an oil refinery or a petrochemical plant – most often, people of color – are still forced to breathe poisons known to cause cancer and other maladies. We’ll ask why some in America are deprived of health insurance or medical care and show how this affects the nation as a whole. We’ll report on dangerous prescription drugs, the marketing of unhealthy foods and threats to maternal and child health. We’ll cover COVID-19, but only if we have something original to say.
Our written and broadcast stories will be mostly long-form but – if we do them well – compelling enough that you’ll stick with them. We’re uninterested in stories that explain the “what” but not the “why” and “how.” If there’s a viable solution to a problem we unearth, we’ll highlight it. We like documents (a lot, in my case) and data.
Public Health Watch exists to inform, inspire and, when necessary, enrage, leading to impact in its many forms. We want our content to reach as wide an audience as possible and would like to hear from you. Send us news tips or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Follow us and comment on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and sign up now for our newsletter.
–Jim Morris, executive director and editor-in-chief