As a country, we are at a profound crossroads in how we understand and think about health and science. On one hand we’re in the midst of a loud — and mostly uninformed — debate about the safety of vaccines. On the other hand we are on the cusp of extraordinary breakthroughs in understanding and treating diseases like cancer.
At this gathering, we engaged leading funders and media makers on philanthropy and media’s roles in restoring public trust in science and medicine through critical reporting, film and entertainment. We examined how media can counter bad information, and also offer new platforms to engage the public in science and fresh channels for sharing important new discoveries. We also offered a hands-on look at emerging tools and technologies being used for health and science.
Read the full recap and watch video from Brooke Gladstone’s interview with Ken Burns.
Check out the discussion on Twitter with #MIFocus.
April 1 , 2015 (all times are ET)
9:30 – 9:45 | WELCOME
- Marine Buissonniere, Open Society Foundations
- Vince Stehle, Media Impact Funders
- Elizabeth Christopherson, Rita Allen Foundation
9:45 – 10:40 | KEYNOTE CONVERSATION
- Ken Burns, interviewed by Brooke Gladstone of On the Media about his new project: Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies
10:40 – 10:55 | BREAK
- Amy Yenkin, director of the Open Society Documentary Photography Project previews photo exhibit leading into break: Watching You, Watching Me.
10:55 – 11:40 | EPIDEMIC DISTORTIONS
RESPONSES TO EBOLA
Much of the recent reporting on Ebola in the US inflamed audiences rather than informing them. How can public interest journalists and filmmakers provide more considered coverage, and how can funders support similar work in the future?
- Moderator: David Morse, The Atlantic Philanthropies
- Lara Setrakian, Ebola Deeply
- Janet Tobias, Unseen Enemy
PHILANTHROPY & THE COMING EPIDEMICS
The recent spread of Ebola and other contagions has raised concerns about the resurgence of diseases that we thought we’d beaten. What can funders do to support effective communication efforts around this and similar infectious disease crises?
- Moderator: David Morse, The Atlantic Philanthropies
- Akwe Amosu, Open Society Foundations
- Bob Ottenhoff, Center for Disaster Philanthropy
11:40 – 12:30 | SESSION 2: CONFRONTING MISINFORMATION & DISINFORMATION
This session explores why people are skeptical about health and science issues, and how special interests influence science and health reporting. Panelists will address how nonprofit news projects can work to keep the public well informed in the face of highly orchestrated efforts to confuse them with disinformation — as was the case with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
- Moderator: Geneva Overholser, Democracy Fund
- Lee Rainie, Pew Research Center
- Alison Fitzgerald, The Center for Public Integrity
- Wendell Potter, The Center for Public Integrity
12:30 – 12:35 | SHORT PREVIEW: Jeanne Pinder, ClearHealth Costs
12:45 – 1:30 | LUNCH
1:30 – 2:25 | BATTLING OBESITY, PART I — CURRENT INITIATIVES
Obesity is a leading cause of preventable death in America, and recent media efforts are aiming to change that, addressing related issues including school lunches, healthcare access, community exercise programs and more. How are funders supporting media efforts that effectively address this complex problem?
- Moderator: Diana Barrett, The Fledgling Fund
- John Hoffman, The Weight of the Nation and Discovery Channel
- Sarah Varney, Kaiser Health News
- Susan Promislo, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
2:25 – 2:30 | SHORT PREVIEW: Sandra Sheppard, Yummiloo
2:30 – 3:15 | NETWORKING SESSION: HANDS-ON HEALTH
Attendees can explore emerging interactive platforms for engaging people in health and science topics, or network with peers during this open time.
3:15 – 4:00 | BATTLING OBESITY, PART II — BUILDING AN ISSUE ECOSYSTEM
As no single project can address all of the angles of an issue, this panel will close with a discussion of how films about obesity have made specific impacts.
4:00 – 5:00 | CREATIVE STORYTELLING IN HEALTH AND SCIENCE
This session will examine how philanthropy can support powerful narratives about public health and science issues.
- Moderator: Vince Stehle, Media Impact Funders
- Caty Borum Chattoo, Center for Media & Social Impact
- Dave Isay, StoryCorps
- Doron Weber, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
5:00 | RECEPTION & VIEWING: See Open Society Foundations’ Moving Walls exhibit: Watching You, Watching Me: A Photographic Response to Surveillance
Diana Barrett: @fledglingfund
Ken Burns: @KenBurns
Caty Borum Chattoo: @CatyBC
Brooke Gladstone: @otmbrooke
Linnea Hartsuyker: @HInstitute
John Hoffman: @The_PGP
Dave Isay: @StoryCorps
Media Impact Funders: @MediaFunders
Bob Ottenhoff: @BobOttenhoff
Geneva Overholser: @genevaoh
Wendell Potter: @wendellpotter
Susan Promislo: @susanpromislo
Lee Rainie: @Lrainie
Lara Setrakian: @lara
Vince Stehle: @VinceDaily
Sarah Varney: @SarahVarney4
Doron Weber: @DoronWeber
Akwe Amosu heads the Open Society Foundations’ Africa Regional Office, which is responsible for the strategic direction, operational support, and advocacy for the work in Africa. Amosu has broad experience in African affairs, working for over 20 years as a journalist and radio producer at the BBC World Service, the Financial Times, and West Africa magazine. She joined allAfrica.com as its founding executive editor in 2000, leading its news coverage for four years. Before joining Open Society in 2006, she worked in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as head of communication at the United Nation’s Economic Commission for Africa. Amosu received a BA with honors from the University of Sussex in the UK.
Diana Barrett is President of The Fledgling Fund, an organization that has as its mission to use storytelling, particularly film and new media, to improve the lives of vulnerable populations. Dr. Barrettt had a long career at Harvard University, where she taught in both the Harvard Business School and the School of Public Health. At the School of Public Health, she ran the Master’s program in Health Policy and Management working closely with students and with health policy leaders, physicians and care providers in the U.S as well as in Mexico, Peru, and Chile. At Harvard Business School, she was a member of the Social Enterprise core group teaching Business Leadership in the Social Sector as well as various executive programs. Her areas of interest included the use of public private partnerships for global poverty reduction and specifically, in addressing the social and personal burden of disease such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. She received both her Master’s in Business Administration and her Doctorate in Business Administration from the Harvard Business School. Her current role provides an opportunity to further those interests by focusing on innovative approaches to complex social issues by the use of media to ignite social change. She is particularly interested in cross platform and new media – new ways of telling a story that might include photography, augmented reality, games and short films. In addition to leading Fledgling, Diana serves on the Board of The Everglades Foundation, the Social Change Film Forum at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the Advisory Board of the Acumen Fund.
Ken Burns has been making documentary films for more than 35 years. Since the Academy Award nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, Ken has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made, including The Civil War, Baseball, Jazz, The War, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, and, most recently, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. Future projects include films on Jackie Robinson, the Vietnam War and country music. Ken’s films have been honored with dozens of major awards, including thirteen Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards and two Oscar nominations; and in September of 2008, at the News & Documentary Emmy Awards, Ken was honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Caty Borum Chattoo is Executive in Residence and Director of the Center for Media & Social Impact at American University in Washington, D.C. She is also a senior strategy advisor leading an Impact & Public Affairs group at Participant Media. Working at the intersection of social-change communication strategy, entertainment/documentary storytelling and impact research, Caty’s work has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, Business Week, Huffington Post and PBS Media Shift, and her documentaries have aired in the U.S. and India. She has produced two theatrical documentary feature films (Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price and The After Party), a TV documentary and transmedia series (Stand Up Planet), multiple half-hour documentary TV specials, a seven-part documentary TV series, and multiple PSA campaigns designed for social change on issues ranging from global poverty to human rights. She was an invited juror for the 2014 BRITDOC Documentary Impact Awards, and she is an impact advisor to international documentary and social change organization, Girl Rising. Previously, she was a senior vice president in behavior-change communication at FleishmanHillard International Communications in Washington, D.C., where her work won the communication field’s highest honor, the Silver Anvil for Public Service. In Los Angeles, she was a longtime collaborator with TV producer Norman Lear as a producer and a founding director of Declare Yourself, a national youth civic engagement campaign; and special projects director at the USC Norman Lear Center. She was also a program officer in the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Entertainment Media & Public Health program, and a media fellow in civic journalism at The Philadelphia Inquirer. She holds a master’s degree in communication from the University of Pennsylvania.
Alison Fitzgerald is an award-winning economics, finance and investigative reporter who joined the Center for Public Integrity in April 2013 to help lead its financial and business reporting. Her first project at the Center, “After the Meltdown,” was honored with the 2014 George Polk Award for business reporting and the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award. She is now managing editor overseeing all of the Center’s work on federal and state politics, finance and broadband. Prior to joining the Center, Alison spent more than a decade at Bloomberg News, where she wrote about the convergence of politics, government and economics. Her coverage of the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing government bailout won her several awards, including the 2009 George Polk Award, the Sidney Hillman Prize for social justice reporting, and the “Best of the Best” from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Her work on the international food price crisis in 2008 won her the Overseas Press Club’s Malcolm Forbes Award. And in 2011 she was cited by the National Press Foundation for distinctive reporting on Congress for an investigation into independent groups that exploited campaign finance loopholes to sway midterm congressional elections. Fitzgerald and co-author Stanley Reed delved into the cost-cutting, risk-taking corporate culture at BP that led to the devastating 2010 Gulf oil spill in In Too Deep: BP and the Drilling Race that Took It Down, published in 2011 by John Wiley & Sons. Prior to joining Bloomberg, Fitzgerald worked at the Associated Press in Boston and New York, the Palm Beach Post, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Fitzgerald and her husband, Drew Kodjak, have three children and live in Takoma Park, Maryland.
Brooke Gladstone, co-host and managing editor of WNYC’s On the Media, is best known for the …pause…that Bob Garfield inserts before mentioning her name in the credits. Among her other accomplishments, she was an NPR Moscow-based reporter, its first media reporter, senior editor of NPR’s All Things Considered, and the senior editor of Weekend Edition with Scott Simon. She’s the recipient of two Peabody Awards, a National Press Club Award, an Overseas Press Club Award and many others. She is the author of The Influencing Machine (W.W. Norton), a media manifesto in graphic form, listed among the top books of 2011 by The New Yorker, Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Reviews and Library Journal, and among the “10 Masterpieces of Graphic Nonfiction” by The Atlantic.
Linnea Hartsuyker is a Product Manager at Harmony Institute with a background in both product management and web development. She has held positions at a variety of internet startups, digital agencies, media companies, and consultancies, including RecycleBank, DraftFCB, ESPN.com, and Accenture. Working with HI’s entire staff, her role is to coordinate and drive all aspects of bringing products and projects to market, from strategy and roadmapping, to user research and UX design, marketing and business development, and testing and releasing new features. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Fiction from New York University, and a BS in Materials Science and Engineering with a concentration in Semiconductor Physics from Cornell University.She may be the only person in the world who has been published both in The Journal of Applied Physics and the literary magazine The Golden Handcuffs Review.
John Hoffman is Executive Vice President, Documentaries and Specials for Discovery Channel. Before joining Discovery, Hoffman was CEO of The Public Good Projects. His company’s first film, Sleepless in America, explored the sleep loss epidemic in the U.S., and aired on National Geographic Television in 2014. Hoffman served as both director and executive producer on the film. Earlier, Hoffman was a part of HBO Documentary Films for 17 years where, in addition to his role as vice president, he executive produced and directed the multiple-Emmy®-nominated The Weight of the Nation, the four-part documentary series addressing obesity. Other HBO documentaries on which Hoffman served as a producer include The Alzheimer’s Project; Addiction; All Aboard! Rosie’s Family Cruise; Last Letters Home: Voices of American Troops From the Battlefields of Iraq; A Rape in a Small Town: The Florence Holway Story; In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11/01; and Cancer: Evolution to Revolution. Hoffman wrote companion books for three of his HBO films, including Addiction: Why Can’t They Just Stop?, The Alzheimer’s Project: Momentum in Science and The Weight of the Nation: Surprising Lessons About Diets, Food, and Fat from the Extraordinary Series from HBO Documentary Films. Before joining HBO, Hoffman created and produced the award-winning Nickelodeon series Allegra’s Window. He earlier served as a producer at Children’s Television Workshop and before that was the administrative director of the Center for Special Studies at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. Hoffman also co-founded the non-profit production company AIDSFILMS, dedicated to HIV education, which produced six multi-award winning documentaries including the PBS special, AIDS: Changing the Rules. Hoffman’s work has received numerous awards, including five Prime Time Emmy® awards with 14 nominations. Hoffman is a graduate of Cornell University and is based in New York.
Dave Isay is the founder of StoryCorps and the recipient of numerous broadcasting honors, including six Peabody Awards and a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship. He is the author/editor of numerous books that grew out of his public radio documentary work, including three StoryCorps books: Listening Is an Act of Love (2007), Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps, and All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps (2012)–all New York Times bestsellers. StoryCorps’ fourth and latest book, Ties That Bind: Stories of Love and Gratitude From the First Ten Years of StoryCorps, was released in the fall of 2013 to coincide with the organization’s 10th anniversary.Most recently, Dave was awarded with the 2015 TED Prize.
Shelagh Leahy is Vice President and Executive Producer at Ikana Health and Media and Executive Producer at Sierra/Tango, a film and television production company with a focus on stories that can make a difference. She is an Emmy-award winning producer and executive with over 20 years of experience. At ABC News, she produced award-winning long-form work for PrimeTime Live and Turning Point. In senior managerial and executive positions at CNN, MSNBC and CNBC, she developed programming and partnership strategies, recruited and managed talent, started up new programs and directed coverage of breaking and developing stories. As an independent producer and consultant, she has worked with Time, Inc., The Economist, The New Yorker and the Tribeca Film Festival. In 2007 she relocated from NYC to Boston, where she has taught as an adjunct professor in the Journalism department at Boston University. Sierra/Tango’s latest documentary, UNSEEN ENEMY, travels the world to explore the factors that contribute to infectious disease epidemics, the increasing speed with which they move around the world, and what can be done to contain and stop diseases like Ebola from becoming global pandemics. UNSEEN ENEMY will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2015.
David Morse is Chief Communications Officer for The Atlantic Philanthropies, a limited life philanthropy scheduled to make its final grants in 2016. As a member of Atlantic’s senior leadership team, David’s responsibilities include developing, leading and executing communications strategy; counseling Atlantic’s board and executive leadership on communications, media and policy issues; and overseeing program and legacy communication initiatives and the foundation’s digital platforms. David has had an eclectic career. He’s been a “shoe-leather” epidemiologist for the New York State Department of Health; professional staff member for the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources; director of the President’s Task Force on the Arts and Humanities; associate vice president for policy planning, director of federal relations and instructor in higher education and public policy at the University of Pennsylvania; chief public affairs officer for the Pew Charitable Trusts; vice president for communications for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; and senior fellow and interim vice president of Encore.org, a San Francisco-based nonprofit building a movement to promote encore careers—second acts for the greater good. David earned a BA with honors from Hamilton College and a master’s in international relations from the Johns Hopkins University. He has served on several boards of nonprofit organizations, teaches a course on public policy, advocacy and strategic communications at the University of Southern California, has three adult children and lives in Pennington, NJ with his wife, dog and a cat that thinks he’s a dog.
Robert G. Ottenhoff is the inaugural president and CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. CDP seeks to transform how donors think about, respond and give to natural disaster. Prior to joining CDP, Bob spent a decade as president and CEO of GuideStar, an industry leader in the use of providing high-quality data to help donors make better decisions and improve nonprofit practice. While there, Bob developed a sustainable “freemium” business model which supports free and fee-based services to more than 10 million users annually and generates most of GuideStar’s operating revenues. Before GuideStar, he had more than 25 years of management experience in public broadcasting, including nine years as chief operating officer of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), the executive director of the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority and founder and inaugural general manager of WBGO-FM, the jazz and news radio station for the New York metro area. He frequently writes, speaks, and comments on nonprofit and philanthropic issues on television, radio and national newspapers.
Geneva Overholser, an independent journalist in New York City, is a senior fellow at the Democracy Fund. She was until 2013 director of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, and continues as a senior fellow at Annenberg’s Center for Communication Leadership and Policy. She serves on the boards of the Rita Allen Foundation, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the Women’s Media Center and the Academy of American Poets. Previously she held the Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Reporting for the Missouri School of Journalism, where she was based in the school’s Washington bureau. From 1988 to 1995, Overholser was editor of The Des Moines Register, where she led the paper to a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Overholser has been ombudsman of The Washington Post, a member of the editorial board of The New York Times, a syndicated columnist for The Washington Post Writers Group, and a reporter for the Colorado Springs Sun. She has been a columnist for the Columbia Journalism Review and an early blogger at Poynter.org. She spent five years overseas, working and writing in Paris and Kinshasa. Through the Annenberg Public Policy Center, in 2006 she published a manifesto on the future of journalism, titled On Behalf of Journalism: A Manifesto for Change. She is co-editor, with Kathleen Hall Jamieson, of the volume The Press, part of the Oxford University Press Institutions of American Democracy series. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Wellesley College, a master’s in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and a French language certificate from the Sorbonne. She has honorary doctorates from Grinnell College and St. Andrews Presbyterian College, and alumnae achievement awards from Wellesley, Northwestern and Medill.
Wendell Potter is a columnist for the The Center for Public Integrity, a contributing writer to The Huffington Post, and president of Wendell Potter Consulting. Wendell left his position as head of communications for CIGNA and became an advocate for health care reform and a vocal critic of insurance industry practices that resulted in millions of Americans being unable to afford or even obtain health coverage. Prior to his corporate career, Wendell was a reporter in Memphis, Nashville and Washington, where he covered Congress, the White House and Supreme Court. He also has served as a consumer representative to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. His book, Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans, describes the evolution of the U.S. health insurance and public relations industries as well as his own personal and professional transformation. His eBook, Obamacare: What’s in it for Me/What Everyone Needs to Know about the Affordable Care Act, was published in December 2013. He has testified before numerous Congressional and state legislative committees, is frequently quoted in leading newspapers including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The Los Angeles Times and has appeared frequently on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, MSNBC and other media.
Susan Promislo, Senior Communications Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, oversees strategic communications for RWJF’s work on eliminating health disparities, strengthening human capital and leadership, and engaging business in health. Previously, she was senior communications officer for the Foundation’s efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic, work to improve the health of vulnerable populations, and its Pioneer Portfolio. Previously, she was a research associate with the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. She also served as a summer associate in the Pew Charitable Trusts’ public policy program and led communications for the Aspen Institute’s Nonprofit Sector and Philanthropy Program in Washington, D.C. Promislo received an MA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication and a BA from Colgate University. Born in Connecticut, she now resides in New Jersey with her husband and two daughters.
Lee Rainie is the Director of Internet, Science, and Technology research at the Pew Research Center, a non-profit, non–partisan “fact tank” that studies the social impact of the internet. The Project has issued more than 500 reports based on its surveys that examine people’s online activities and the internet’s role in their lives. The Center also has begun a sustained study of the intersection of science and society. All of its reports and datasets are available online for free at www.pewinternet.org. Lee is a co-author of Networked: The New Social Operating System with sociologist Barry Wellman about the social impact of the internet and cell phones. He is also co-author of five books about the future of the internet that are based on Project surveys about the subject. Prior to launching the Pew Internet Project, Lee was managing editor of U.S. News & World Report.
Lara Setrakian is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of News Deeply. She’s spent more than five years as a foreign correspondent, covering the Middle East for television, radio, and digital platforms. Her first platform, Syria Deeply, launched in December 2012 to wide acclaim. Lara was posted in the Middle East in the first wave of digital reporters for ABC News. While there she was promoted to an unprecedented role, reporting jointly for ABC News and Bloomberg Television. Lara has served as an inaugural fellow with the Peter Jennings Program at the National Constitution Center and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Prior to joining ABC News, Lara worked as a business analyst with McKinsey & Company, focused on finance and corporate strategy. Lara graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University and is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Sarah Varney is a senior health policy correspondent with Kaiser Health News. Her stories air regularly on NPR News and the PBS News Hour and appear in the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Politico Magazine, The Atlantic.com and KHN’s other print partners. She has reported extensively on obesity, and she is the author of XL Love: How the Obesity Crisis Is Complicating America’s Love Life (Rodale, 2014). The New York Times called her a “pioneer” and said she “succeeds in impressing the reader with the range and complexity of her subject.” She lives in San Francisco.
Doron Weber, Vice President, Programs and Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, oversees efforts in Public Understanding of Science and Technology, Universal Access to Knowledge and International Science Cooperation. A sponsor of Pulitzer Prize winning books, Emmy-winning television documentaries and Peabody-winning radio shows, Mr. Weber created a nationwide theater and film program that has been honored with Tony Awards, Oscars and the National Science Foundation Public Service Award. He is a founding sponsor of RadioLab, the Tribeca Film Institute and the World Science Festival. Mr. Weber is the lead funder of the Digital Public Library of America, with open access to material from 1300 libraries, archives and cultural institutions, and of Wikipedia, the largest encyclopedia in human history, where he is a Board Visitor. He supports the Scholar Rescue Fund which saves endangered academics in nations under stress while a new program in International Science Cooperation focuses on collaborative research by scientists and engineers in conflict regions. Mr. Weber was educated at Brown University, the Sorbonne and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He has been a newspaper boy, bus boy, taxi driver, screenwriter, boxer and tutor. Weber has authored several books, most recently Immortal Bird: A Family Memoir named one of the fifty notable works of nonfiction by the Washington Post in 2013.
Photo courtesy of PBS