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William Heisel's Antidote: Investigating Untold Health Stories

William Heisel, former investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times, writes about investigative health reporting. He is currently the director of global engagement at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

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A reporter gets a call from the hypothetical Council for Making Sick Kids Smile about an event being sponsored on an otherwise sleepy Sunday. The reporter heads out to the event, hoping for a quick local page filler, and comes back to the newsroom with a great-sounding story with quotes from a well-spoken university professor and a teary mom and a photo of a sick and smiling child holding balloons nuzzling with a baby koala bear.

What reporters in this situation rarely ask is: who founded this council and why?

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In the end, the dirty dentist didn't get away with it.

A Collier County Circuit Court judge last week sentenced David Rees Sperry to 10 years in prison for lewd and lascivious battery after Sperry attacked a 14-year-old boy at a beach near Naples, Florida, and forced the boy to perform oral sex on him.

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My former colleague at the Los Angeles Times, Myron Levin, played an important role in unearthing new information about cell phone use and car accidents.

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Medical malpractice cases can live or die on the testimony of an expert witness. Defense
attorneys will go after the expert's credentials with every tool in their kit.

One would think that plaintiff's attorneys suing the federal government on behalf of a
patient would make sure they had a doctor with impeccable experience ready to take the stand and bolster the patient's case.

Instead, they hired Dr. Alex T. Zakharia.

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Johnson & Johnson — maker of tearless baby shampoo and sugarless sugar — has devised another innovation: the time-traveling scientist.

This may sound astonishing, true believers, but read on!

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Let's assume that Dr. Conrad Murray did not kill Michael Jackson.

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What drives someone with a strong scientific reputation to cut a secret deal with a drug company for ghostwriting help just to have one more paper published?

Let's ask.

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Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman has become the go-to source for comments on how drug companies have been using ghostwriters to inject marketing messages into the medical literature, a controversy that prompted powerful Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, to send a letter on Aug. 11 to the National Institutes of Health asking, among other things, "What is the current NIH policy on ghostwriting with regards to NIH researchers?"

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The engagement editor's mission: to advance the work of our California media partners, furthering public knowledge, storytelling, engagement and connection around community health and health policy issues in diverse communities. The ideal candidate will have both journalism and community engagement experience. Go to this link to apply.

We're looking for journalists who think big and want to gain new insights into the effects on vulnerable children  and their families of poverty, trauma and toxic stress. The all-expenses-paid 2017 National Fellowship, which provides five days of intensive workshops, field trips and discussions, along with $2,000-$12,000 grants for reporting and community engagement and six months of mentoring. Click here for details. Deadline: March 24.

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