Journalism steps up

It’s not often that I yearn to see our state Legislature in action, but I was drawn to tune in to cable Tuesday morning to watch the Human Services Committee Joint Legislative Hearing.

The 4-hour hearing, chaired by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and joined by other legislators, heard from experts and jousted with state officials on issues swirling around oversight of California’s 7,500 assisted living facilities.

What drew me to take notice?

These issues were brought to light last year through two exceptional journalistic efforts — one, a project partnership involving the Center and U-T San Diego; the other, a series of stories by the nonprofit investigative journalism shop, Propublica.

Without these revelatory bodies of work, the hearing never would have been scheduled. Without months of digging by journalists through paper files of state, court and local government documents, state legislators would never have divined what is and isn’t taking place at assisted living homes. Without journalists confronting state officials with their findings, those officials would not be marching to the Capitol to explain themselves.

Without these projects’ publication, the public and our elected officials never would have known that these frail, elderly residents — among our most vulnerable citizens – are sometimes not looked after, that there is neglect in care, that there is unnecessary death.

These are our loved ones, after all. They are moms and dads, sisters and brothers, grandparents and aunts and uncles whom we are trying to ensure will have comfort during life’s twilight years.

Now we know that for some, at least, those years are less twilight, more nightmare.

And now, because of what we know – thanks to journalism — we can try to change that.

The Legislature now has that chance. Elected officials have introduced 12 bills to repair a broken system.

Again, those bills never would have seen the light of day without – you guessed it – journalism.

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