After 12 years covering education for the Observer, I'm embarking Monday on a new venture covering the Affordable Care Act.
The children who were in kindergarten when I started this beat in February 2002 graduated in June, so it felt like time to try a new challenge myself. The opportunity arose when the Observer got a one-year grant from the Kaiser Family Foundation to create a reporting job that will explore how the act is playing out in North Carolina.
Writing about health care appeals to me for the same reasons education reporting does: It's a beat that combines intellectual complexity with emotional impact, an area where vital public policy decisions are taking shape and people are hungry for good information.
As blog readers will suspect, the notion of a grant-funded job gave me pause. Public education is being shaped by big-money donors with agendas, something that's debated here on a regular basis. But before accepting the grant, our editors and Garloch determined that the only agenda being pushed by Kaiser Health News, which isn't affiliated with Kaiser Permanente, is generating high-quality coverage of a public policy issue that touches virtually every aspect of our lives and economy.
While some may suspect I've grown weary of education, the opposite is true. The hardest part of this switch is letting go of the long list of intriguing themes and story ideas in my mental files. If I could clone myself, one of me -- make that two or three of me -- would delve into those stories.
I'd say "So long until next summer," but I've noticed something when I tell sources about the switch: Almost everyone shares a passionate observation about how the Affordable Care Act is affecting their families and/or business, for good or for bad.
I hope to get lots of personal stories to make policy coverage come to life. So I'll just say "Stay in touch." And provide Andrew with the same stream of tips, questions, color commentary and, ahem, constructive criticism that I've come to count on.