Grant helps insure Tribune’s coverage of Obamacare

Wes Venteicher

Wes Venteicher

A $30,000 grant from a private foundation focused on health care issues is helping defray the salary of a Chicago Tribune reporter covering Obamacare.

Wes Venteicher, who’d been a TribLocal suburban reporter since June 2013, recently shifted to the Chicago Tribune consumer watchdog and investigative reporting team as a full-time reporter covering the Affordable Care Act and consumer health issues — a new position funded in part by Kaiser Health News.

The Tribune is one of at least six major newspapers across the country to receive funding from the nonprofit news organization, which is tied to the Kaiser Family Foundation and says it is “dedicated to filling the need for trusted information on national health issues.”

Gerry Kern

Gerry Kern

News of Venteicher’s assignment was first reported by the Chicago Radio and Media blog, which inaccurately stated that “a government grant is supposedly helping to pay” for the position. Chicago Tribune editor Gerry Kern said there is no government funding involved.

“The $30,000 originates with the Kaiser Family Foundation and comes to the Tribune via an arrangement between Kaiser Health News and various news organizations across the country,” Kern told me Wednesday.

“Stories are controlled solely by the Chicago Tribune, which assigns, edits and determines their news play,” Kern said. “Neither the foundation nor the news organization assigns, edits or otherwise controls the news stories Chicago Tribune produces as part of this arrangement. We label each story with this tagline: ‘This story was produced in partnership with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.’ ”

Kern noted that other newspapers receiving similar funding from Kaiser Health News this year include the Miami Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer, Seattle Times, Atlanta Journal Constitution and St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In addition to Venteicher’s role, coverage of the Affordable Care Act and related health topics also is handled by business reporter Peter Frost and Washington bureau reporter Noam Levey, among other Tribune staffers, Kern said.

The Kaiser Family Foundation calls itself “a non-partisan source of facts, analysis and journalism for policymakers, the media, the health policy community and the public” and says it “takes no position on the ACA or other law or proposal.”

Kaiser Health News, which employs its own reporters and editors who produce stories for its website and in conjunction with other newspapers, receives no government funding. Neither Kaiser Health News nor the Kaiser Family Foundation is affiliated with the health insurance company Kaiser Permanente.