It's (mostly) all over now, except for the shouting.
As the two-week run date for the inaugural project of noted earlier, All Together Now grew out of a desire to unite the Madison journalism community in a common purpose. In meetings throughout the year, a cadre of participants conceived a group reporting project on the subject of health care access.
The undertaking, so far as we know the first of its kind nationally, drew an early favorable mention in the Columbia Journalism Review. Last week, it was highlighted by James Romenesko in his widely read journalism blog for the Poynter Institute.
This past Monday, the project was feted with a gathering at Hilldale Great Dane. Guests included participating journalists, student journalists, a hospital PR person and various well-wishers. It sounds corny, but it sort of felt like a community, which was the whole point.
Project entries including links to radio and television stories are posted on the website atnmadison.org. I'd like to highlight some of what was done.
- Isthmus published two cover features: The first story, on the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, is about a government agency that's largely useless as an advocate for health care consumers (see the posted comment from a former OCI employee), and is accompanied by a review of 28 complaints from the office. The second story, by Maggie Ginsberg-Schutz and about the UW Center for Patient Partnerships, concerns an actually effective group for people facing health care crises. The two stories together, I think, are a nice study in contrasts. We also ran project-related stories about Dane County's decline in African-American infant mortality rates, just barely beating Newsweek to the punch, and on Madison-area walk-in health clinics.
- Madison Magazine published a terrific story, written by editor and All Together Now coordinator Brennan Nardi, on the declining number of primary care providers and the consequences for health-care consumers. I admit I nearly nose-spewed a little Diet Coke when I read that family practitioners must soldier on by with an average salary of just $173,000, according to a national study, while specialists make two and three times as much. But the article won me over with its thoroughness and keen relevance to Madison health-care consumers.
- The Capital Times unleashed its superb health reporter, Shawn Doherty, to write a piece on the reluctance of insurance companies to cover alternative treatments, most tragically when they may be cheaper and more effective. The paper found a great example in the case of a 9-year-old girl who was helped by alternative treatments and sickened by (probably futile) traditional care. And, in classic Cap Times fashion, it highlights the callousness of the insurance industry, like the lobbyist who worries that patients might avail themselves of treatments they don't need: "Who doesn't like to have a massage?"
- The campus Badger Herald on Wednesday launched a three-part series (part one and part two) on SHIP, the Student Health Insurance Plan. It does a fine job of explaining what the program is and does, and has already sparked some interesting responses. My favorite is the comment from "anonymous," who objects to SHIP's assertion that it's not out to turn a profit: "Well, that's not a good sign. Profit is the result of producing what others value. Either they produce value or take it from taxpayers who have produced it. Also, covering contraceptives and other routine medical care is not insurance." Okie dokie.
- Carol Koby of WTDY Radio kicked off the Madison RX project with a two-part panel discussion (part one and part two). She'll bookend its conclusion with a discussion with project leaders (including me!) that will air this Saturday, from noon to 1 p.m.
- WISC-TV in Madison has been an important player, running reports on how local providers are revamping the primary care system and on barriers to access in rural areas, as well as supportive mentions by the station's estimable editorial director, Neil Heinen. Heinen will host project leaders (including me!) on this week's edition of "For the Record," which airs on Sunday at 10 a.m.