Reporters at the Journal and the Times dig in deep.
I thought I’d use this space today to highlight some great recent reporting by a couple of other dailies—you know, those things we used to call newspapers.
Rolfe Winkler at the Wall Street Journal had a front-page eye-opener yesterday on Outcome Health, a 10-year-old Chicago firm, helmed by Rishi Shah, that puts ads on screens in medical offices.
That’s right, Outcome Health has little to do with med-tech; rather, it’s an electronic billboard company that has found a key niche in the healthcare realm. Still, despite that seemingly prosaic business model, Outcome has become a celebrity in the unicorn set in recent years, managing to raise more than $500 million—on a head-shaking $5.5 billion valuation—from smart-money investors at Goldman Sachs and Alphabet among other places. And Shah has become a celeb as well. Indeed, Fortune picked the 31-year-old CEO (along with 32-year-old Outcome president Shradha Agarwal) for our annual “40 Under 40” list this year.
But the Journal reports that all is not what it seems at the company. Citing internal documents and other data provided by Outcome employees, Winkler asserts that the firm “provided inflated data” to gauge how those in-office advertisements actually performed. The company also “created documents that inaccurately verified that ads ran on certain doctors’ screens and manipulated third-party analyses showing the effectiveness of the ads,” Winkler writes.
The Journal says it “found nothing to demonstrate top executives’ involvement in the alleged misleading of advertisers.” After the report, Outcome’s management put some employees on paid leave, and Shah and Agarwal told the Journal in an email: “Of course, we have had growing pains as we scaled from 4,000 to 40,000 doctors’ offices—every high-growth company does. That is why we have taken many steps to implement best practices.”
The New York Times, meanwhile, offered another impressive bit of reporting yesterday—but of a different sort. Margot Sanger-Katz’s explainer, “What We Know About Trump’s Twin Blows to Obamacare,” is the kind of journalism that doesn’t get anywhere near the credit it deserves. Sanger-Katz lays out eight questions that are on a lot of folks’ minds after President Trump’s latest efforts to undercut the Affordable Care Act—an executive order Thursday morning, followed by an announcement last evening that the government would stop making certain ACA-related payments to insurers—and answers them.
Her reporting is solid; her explanations, straightforward and clear. For anyone who’s curious about where things stand with Obamacare, this is a great first read.
In an era when newspapers are under attack by forces both political and economic, these two stories affirm why we still need them.