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Ben Hallman

618. The Examination collaborates to deliver fearless journalism for a healthier world

Public health, and its many contributing factors, is something that everyone needs and strives to have but it’s still a topic in which many newsrooms aren’t investing enough resources, says Ben Hallman, founder and executive director of The Examination

The independent health journalism website is trying to fix that by partnering its team of more than a dozen reporters with other journalists and editors in newsrooms like the Washington Post and The Guardian to not only provide investigative journalism but to help make the world a little healthier — and maybe a little more well informed. 

“We take on tough stories and tough topics,” Hallman says of The Examination, which launched last September. “We want to be not afraid to take on people and industries that have a lot of power and money. We want to get to the root causes of problems.” 

There are a handful of industries that are largely responsible, directly or indirectly, for the 30 million preventable deaths that happen every year, Hallman says. “The tobacco industry is still killing a lot of people; the oil and gas industry; ultra-processed foods and some other pollutants. Stack all that up together and it’s a lot of suffering that doesn’t get attention,” yet the deaths tied to dirty water, contaminated or otherwise unhealthy food and other preventable human losses could all be mitigated, he says. 

“We don’t want to write just about the end product, what happens; we want to write about who’s responsible. … We are really fortunate to have the luxury to focus on what it’s all about and for us it’s about making a positive change.” 

Recently, The Examination published a story in partnership with the Washington Post looking at nutrition and dietician influencers on social media. It found many of them who are talking about eating foods considered less than healthy have been paid by the food industry to promote certain products. 

“The first piece of this looked at the lack of disclosure that some of the videos they were putting our, that it’s OK to consume bowls of ice cream and candy in great quantities. There was very little or no disclosure on these viral posts” that the content creator had been paid by food companies that made those items. “We pitched it to the Washington Post and teamed up with excellent reporters and editors on their team. That’s how our pieces work. If we’re going to do a really big story, we’re going to do it in collaboration with another partner for a lot of reasons.” 

The Examination published a followup story a few weeks ago, expanding on that first story from last fall. It focused on “anti-diet culture, intuitive eating. Those concepts come from a good place, pushing back against a culture that obsesses about body image, and how those have been co-opted by the food industry.”

No two pieces are written or investigated the same, Hallman says, comparing it to a custom-made bicycle cobbled together with various found parts and pieces. 

But that kind of collaborative newsroom and reporting helps strengthen each individual journalist’s work and their research, and while there might be a few things the Examination is still working out, Hallman believes it’s a worthwhile endeavor for all involved. 

“The upside is, you can end up working with some of the best investigative journalists in the world, in places you would not know much about otherwise,” he says. “Reporters collectively sharing their information, their reporting product, leads to better stories for everyone who draws from the reporting pool.” 

Is The Examination having an impact? Hallman is confident his teams are already making a difference. “The investigation into dieticians and companies paying them led to warning letters from the FTC. It helps in all facets of what we do to be able to point to real world impact.” 

Allison Taylor-Levine

625. Community collaboration key to evolving local journalism

Allison Taylor Levine, CEO of Local Journalism Initiative, discusses how LJI’s Delaware Journalism Collaborative, which has brought more than 25 partners throughout the state together to report on polarization and possible solutions, strengthens local journalism in Delaware and our democracy.

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