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.

Senior Writer Emily Bazar is based in our Sacramento office, where she covers health care policy in California, with a focus on Obamacare implementation, Medi-Cal budget cuts, children’s dental care and variation in the use of medical treatments. Bazar also writes a biweekly column called “Ask Emily,” which answers readers’ questions about the Affordable Care Act. Her articles are published in newspapers and websites across the state, including The San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Daily News, The Sacramento Bee and The San Jose Mercury News. She also regularly appears on KQED’s Forum, Capital Public Radio’s Insight, KPCC, Valley Public Radio and other on-air programs to discuss health care. Her reporting on Medi-Cal’s troubled children’s dental program was awarded the 2011 California Journalism Award for Special Feature/Enterprise Reporting. Prior to joining the Center for Health Reporting, Bazar was a national reporter for USA TODAY, where she covered immigration, the effects of the economic recession and other topics. Her first journalism job was at The Sacramento Bee. Over nine years, her beats included transportation, higher education, California politics, the energy crisis and immigration. Bazar graduated from Stanford University. Contact email: ebazar@usc.edu office: 916-637-8966

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