Public Editor

Is story about Kansas mental health initiative “a laudatory press release” for Brownback?

A reader contacted me with a good question about a story on a new program announced by Kansas Gov. Brownback to spend $9.5 million in state and federal funds to expand mental health services and agency coordination.

The story “leaves me with significant questions on the origin of the funding for this effort,” she wrote. “Those unclearly answered questions make the overall article look a bit like a laudatory press release for Gov. Brownback. If this is primarily a transfer of funding from one set of social supports to another and not new funding, that needs to be very clearly explained.”

The story says specifics of how the money will be spent are “still being worked out,” according to Phyllis Gilmore, secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, and identifies $7 million of it coming from the Kansas Department for Children and Families. But that’s not a full accounting.

This reader’s appeal shows once again how important it is for the press not just to present what elected leaders say they’re doing, but also to look at the issue independently to assess how it is implemented. In this case, nobody has a crystal ball — but I’ve underlined this reader’s very reasonable request to follow the story closely to the newsroom. I hope they do so.