The WSJ’s health blog is now flatlining

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WSJ health blog

Public relations practitioner Brian Reid mourns the loss of the Wall Street Journal‘s health blog, where the plug was pulled on Thursday.

Reid writes, “In March of 2007, I wrote a note to the staff here about the emergence of a new health blog that I thought had the potential to upend the health reporting world. The outlet was the WSJ Health Blog, and it promised to marry the Journal’s excellent reporting with a certain degree of take-no-prisoners snark and honesty. The Health Blog’s first writer, Jacob Goldstein, told me early on that his charge was to write ‘all of the things that we know as true but can’t really say in the paper.’

“It was half-threat, half-promise. Jacob was cranking out a half-dozen posts on a busy day, covering the silly and the serious, and leaving no stone unturned. Outrageous executive compensation was called outrageous. Goofy television commercials were called goofy. Drug reps were compared to Faustus. And the perspective of everyone from key researchers to hospital CEOs were put on display. It was a fun read and an important read. Everyone tuned in.

“That was 2007. Jacob is long gone. So is his boss, Scott Hensley (who has brought the spirit of Health Blog to NPR’s Shots blog). Over time, the blog became understaffed, and the tone had slowly morphed from a saucy, comprehensive teller of truths to a good-but-not-great source for basic consumer health news, with a handful of biopharma briefs. Yesterday, the WSJ announced that they were killing the endeavor after a 5-year-run.

“The Health Blog helped create the modern health-reporting landscape, and it’s hard not to see echoes of Jacob and Scott’s original vision in Shots, in the online work that Matt Herper does at Forbes, in newspaper health blogs in places like Boston and Los Angeles. But good work and an impressive parent outlet is no guarantee of lasting success. The Health Blog outlasted the New York Times’ Prescriptions effort (shuttered in February) as well as health blogging efforts at USA Today.”

Read more here.