Top Staff Chosen for USC Annenberg’s Center for Health Reporting

Westphal to lead ground-breaking foundation-funded model for cooperative reporting

The USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism announced today the hiring of top editors and reporters from around the nation to staff the California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting, a new effort to expand and improve coverage of this crucial issue across the state.

David Westphal, former Washington editor for McClatchy Newspapers from 1998 to 2008, will become the first editor-in-chief of the Center. Since September 2008, Westphal has been executive-in-residence at USC Annenberg, where his work has focused on entrepreneurship in the news business and new sustainable models for the industry.

The Center’s mission is to build partnerships with media across the state — from established newspapers, TV, and radio to new media — to produce in-depth, explanatory reporting on health care issues of importance to local communities and the state.

The Center is funded by a three-year, $3.285-million grant from the California HealthCare Foundation, an Oakland-based independent, nonprofit philanthropy whose mission is to improve the health and health care of all Californians.

Michael Parks, USC Annenberg professor of journalism and Pulitzer Prize-winning former editor of the Los Angeles Times, directs the center and led the five-month search for senior staff. He announced the following appointments:

Editor-in-Chief: DAVID WESTPHAL, who supervised McClatchy’s Washington and foreign bureaus and also led the editorial operations of McClatchy Tribune Information Services, which had more than 1,200 media clients worldwide. Before McClatchy, Westphal worked for 17 years at the Des Moines Register, where his assignments ranged from sports editor to Washington bureau reporter to managing editor, a position he held from 1988 to 1995. He has twice won the John Hancock Award for business and financial journalism and he also won the Washington Correspondence Award of the National Press Club. He has served as co-chair of the Freedom of Information Committee for the American Society of Newspaper Editors and was a member of the National Press Foundation board of directors.

Managing Editor: RICHARD KIPLING, a 24-year veteran at the Los Angeles Times where he held a number of editing and newsroom management positions, including serving as editor of the Orange County Edition and director of the company’s Minority Editorial Training Program. Kipling received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UC Santa Barbara in political science and did doctorate-level work in government at the Claremont Graduate School. Kipling joined the pilot project last year, testing the Center concept, and edited seven newspaper projects across the state.

Senior Writer: EMILY BAZAR, who most recently worked at USA TODAY, where she wrote about immigration issues and the effects of the current economic recession. Previously she worked for the Sacramento Bee, where she covered state government and was an award-winning projects writer. She is a graduate of Stanford University.

Senior Writer: JOHN GONZALES, who most recently was based in New Orleans for the Associated Press and covered immigration and demographics throughout the South. Gonzales previously was the Hispanic Affairs reporter for Newsday, a beat that took him to Mexico, the U.S. border region, and other locales. He is a USC Annenberg graduate, as well as a graduate of the Los Angeles Times Minority Editorial Training Program.

Senior Writer: DEBORAH SCHOCH, who covered the environment and health care during her 18 years at the Los Angeles Times. She was the lead writer on three reporting series completed as a pilot for the Center — two for the Merced Sun-Star and one for the North County Times (San Diego). Schoch was a Nieman fellow at Harvard University, where she studied environmental science, law, and policy. She is a graduate of Cornell University.

The goal of the Center’s staff will be not just to untangle the perplexities of California’s health care policy but to focus on solutions for its problems, Parks said.

“This is a journalism of empowerment, based on the premise that you not only have to tell people there’s a problem — but you have to show them possible solutions so they can act. If you just give them the problem, it’s not fair,” he said.

The Center’s journalists bring varied backgrounds and diverse fields of expertise, but they also offer a passion that is crucial for the project’s success, Parks said.

“I’m excited about their excitement, their enthusiasm. It’s not just a job to them — it’s akin to a calling,” Parks added.

The team also is excited that its expertise will be used to address an issue that is so immediate, Westphal said. “This is an opportune time, with the public’s attention focused in an extraordinary way on health, to do some deep digging and research on health care issues in California that really have meaning to people,” he said.

The grant extends through August 2012, and Parks hopes at least 50 major projects will be completed by then. He will remain as the project’s principal investigator and also will chair its advisory board.

Westphal says he will be reaching out to media organizations in California that are interested in forming partnerships with the Center. Those interested may contact him at 213.821.0700.

About the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism

Located in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California, the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism is a national leader in education and scholarship in the fields of communication, journalism, public diplomacy and public relations. With an enrollment of more than 2,200 students, USC Annenberg offers doctoral, graduate and undergraduate degree programs, as well as continuing development programs for working professionals, across a broad scope of academic inquiry. The school’s comprehensive curriculum emphasizes the core skills of leadership, innovation, service and entrepreneurship and draws upon the resources of a networked university located in the media capital of the world.

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About the California Health Care Foundation

The California Health Care Foundation is dedicated to advancing meaningful, measurable improvements in the way the health care delivery system provides care to the people of California, particularly those with low incomes and those whose needs are not well served by the status quo. We work to ensure that people have access to the care they need, when they need it, at a price they can afford.