Media Moves and News

How MedCity News covers the business of health care

August 23, 2016

Posted by Chris Roush

Arundhati Parmar
Arundhati Parmar

Arundhati Parmar is vice president and editorial director at MedCity News, which she rejoined earlier in July after working there as a reporter from 2011 to 2013.

Previously she was senior editor at UBM’s Medical Device + Diagnostic Industry. She also worked as a business reporter at Finance & Commerce in Minneapolis, Crain publications FinancialWeek and Pensions & Investments and the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

Parmar has three degrees from three continents: a Bachelor of Arts in English from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India; a masters in English literature from the University of Sydney, Australia; and a masters in journalism from Northwestern University in Chicago.

Parmar spoke with Talking Biz News about MedCity News and how it covers health care. What follows is an edited transcript.

Can you explain how MedCity News was founded and why?

I will make an attempt to answer this given that I am not the founder, although the co-founder hired me back in the day as a MedCity reporter.

Chris Seper co-founded MedCity News because he realized that there was a crucial gap in how the business of health care was being covered. Daily newspapers, where he was himself employed, were not providing the attention and the analysis that a business-to-business audience might crave. Neither did health care have publications like Venture Beat or TechCrunch that was fulfilling that gap in technology coverage with a healthy dose of irreverence and attitude.

And that led him and a colleague to take a buyout from the Cleveland Plain Dealer to launch MedCity News in late 2008.

How big is the editorial staff, and what types of stories do they cover?

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 8.52.00 PMAt full capacity, we will have four full-time journalists with specific beats. Broadly we cover life sciences companies including pharma, biotech, devices and diagnostics companies; digital health; venture capital and startups, private payers and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, policy and regulation. But inside those broad buckets we really cover innovation — how it’s done, who is paying for it, who wants to do it and best practices.

And we cover the personalities too — so when athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush hunched over a person who had collapsed on the streets of San Francisco and performed CPR, we got hold of a photo and wrote a story.

And when Aetna CEO appeared to back the health exchanges and then bowed out before being shown to be using its participation as leverage to avoid an antitrust lawsuit from the federal government, we did not hesitate to call him a hypocrite.

Your website mentions that these industries are spread across the country. Do you have editorial staff across the country?

Currently, I am based in the Bay Area in San Jose, with two other reporters in Chicago and Philadelphia. I am also looking to hire two other reporters who will likely be in different locations.

What attracted you to coming back to MedCity News?

I gained a lot of skills at my previous employer that will undoubtedly help me in my new role at MedCity, but at the end of the day that company’s first strategy is events. I want to always work for a company where content and journalism is part of the DNA.

MedCity News is a natural fit, not to mention that I had a blast being a reporter here. The fact that I get to lead it today is a bonus. I have to thank both Chris and the CEO of MedCity News’ parent company — John Lerner of Breaking Media — for affording me that opportunity.

What are your goals in your new position?

Chris and MedCity News’ journalists have built an organization that is recognized no matter where I go. That in itself is no mean feat in an era of ever expanding sources of content from Medium to Reddit, from STAT News to Twitter and LinkedIn.

My immediate goal is to fill the open positions. But the larger, overall goal will be to align our content strategy and the power of the website with our three events. So when people come to the website or attend our events, they have a seamless experience of getting compelling content.

Where do you think MedCity News can improve its coverage?

We have so far run fast and furious to cover health care innovation. I would like, and we are already making attempts, at taking a step back and looking at connecting the dots, delving deeper into what the most exciting, pathbreaking technologies are, who the biggest players are and writing more comprehensively about them. If there is one way to describe it, it’s going way beyond the press release.

And on a very personal note, I would like all of us to think about the art of writing — of flow, of transitions, of sentence construction.

Who do you see as your biggest competitors?

From a breaking news perspective, everyone is a competitor — be it Twitter, Wall Street Journal or Reuters. There is a bit of an old-school newspaper reporter in me that to this day wants my publication to be the first one to get that coveted interview or write that scoop. So competition is rife.

But looking more narrowly at health care-only publications, I admire MobiHealthNews a lot for what it has done with digital health coverage. There’s also the Fierce group of publications. Each sector within health care, be it medical devices or biotech or health IT also has dedicated publications.

But I would like to think that no one pulls it all together under one umbrella quite like MedCity News does.

I noticed my former colleague Andy Miller of Georgia Health News on your site. Do you have other content arrangements?

We have permission to use Kaiser Health News stories. We also have a program called MedCitizens that allows healthcare practitioners to contribute to our site. For instance we had the chief medical officer of Dell’s healthcare business submit content.

Who are your readers?

MedCity’s readers are people interested in the business of health care and innovation. They are venture capitalists, startup entrepreneurs and C-suite executives at life science companies small and large to name a few categories of readers.

Are there other health care news products that you’re examining?

It’s way too early to be talking about this. Ping me later :-)

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