Terra Sigillata

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As I have stated many times before, this blog has brought me some personal experiences and friendships I would have never had in my life as “just” a lab scientist and pharmacology professor.

Among the most cordial relationships I have had online with a professional journalist has been with Scott Hensley of the Wall Street Journal. Mr Hensley is a top-notch print reporter on health issues who two years ago became founding editor of the Journal’s foray into HealthWeb 2.0, the WSJ Health Blog. Today, he has announced formally that he is leaving the blog and the Journal.

I have long admired the Journal’s commitment to health reporting, especially in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industries. Scott and his colleague, Jacob Goldstein, together with a smattering of their print reporters, have been among my top reads every day and, most recently, a frequent fave on my Twitter feed.

As an outsider to how for-profit print publications manage free content, Health Blog has a model that I think would work: just enough info to tantalize on the blog that made one want to go to the pay-content for the full story. For me, the additional content was and is worth every penny of the $12.95/month I pay for online access to the entire paper (about $30/month to subscribe to the dead-tree version). The pharmaceutical content alone is unique and cutting-edge, providing me with great lecture material and insights on developments and trends one doesn’t quite find in the scientific literature or other discipline-specific professional publications.

I respect deeply the talents and hard work that a great many science and medical journalists devote to their work – especially people like Hensley who put the complex landscape of science and business in perspective. For all of the discussion amongst the science blogosphere about blogs “replacing” traditional reporting, I am afraid that we are incredibly naive – particularly when we as scientists sometimes cherry-pick (most unscientifically) the worst examples of journalism to criticize. At least for me, a scientist for whom about 3/4 of my content is my professional commentary and interpretation of sci/med stories from conventional media sources (albeit most often brought to my attention by blogs and RSS or Twitter feeds), I’d be lost without being able to turn daily to a couple dozen or so of my most revered science writers.

However, the economy and continued cost-cutting in journalism continues as the industry and profession struggle with how to manage their business model in the current climate.

Scott is one of a handful of “real” journalists, writers, and authors whom I have grown to know via e-communication or in person – gaining a glimpse inside their world has enriched me, both as a scientist and communicator.

Scott especially took extra time to correspond with me, offer advice, and include this blog in the WSJ feed. Frankly, I am really an amateur at this. But Scott has treated me in every exchange with all the respect deserving of a fellow professional.

Above and beyond being an extraordinary journalist, Mr Hensley is a gentleman.

It is with sadness that we mark this gentleman’s career transition, as we have done recently for several other friends. All the best to you, Scott, and your lovely family as you move forward – rest assured you have left a very strong mark in the scientific and medical blogosphere.

[You can continue to follow Scott on Twitter @scotthensley]

Comments

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    March 25, 2009

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