Finding a niche in the business, understanding the importance of an extensive explanation, and sifting through the constant noise of the media are all imperative skills to become a successful reporter.
In December, Kim Dixon joined The Hill to serve as the editor of the healthcare vertical on its subscription service, The Hill Extra. With a successful career and previous positions at both Politico and Reuters, Dixon holds an extraordinary amount of insight when it comes to reporting on healthcare.
Kim Dixon sat down with me this week to discuss her journalism career, the intricacies of healthcare reporting, and her advice for PR professionals.
Congratulations on your new role with The Hill as an editor of the healthcare vertical for The Hill Extra! What are you most excited for in this new position?
Being on the ground floor of a new project, which is essentially a start-up, is probably what excites me the most. We are also taking a risk, and being here for a bit over a month now, there is a unique energy in our newsroom. We are the scrappy underdog!
You bring a wealth of experience and understanding of the national healthcare landscape based on your previous reporting and positions – what is the biggest challenge in covering healthcare? What are the biggest mistakes typically made, and how do you overcome them?
Covering something as big as the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare — and there is of course more to healthcare than that — but that takes up a lot of the oxygen, it can be hard to sift through the noise. Separating out the politics and back-and-forth allegations from policy facts is the true challenge. We don’t want to repeat allegations that have been proven false.
What drew you to the field of healthcare reporting and coverage?
Honestly, it was a bit of a fluke. There was an opening at the right time when I was starting out, and once I got going, I was hooked. I like the link between business and government, politics and policy and the fact that everyone can relate in some way. Healthcare reporting also works really well with where journalism has headed — finding niche audiences willing to pay for news.
If there is one thing you wish all readers knew about healthcare and what it takes to cover it, what would it be?
That’s pretty broad… but I guess I’d say nothing in healthcare can be explained in a sound bite or even two sentences.
What are some of the ways PR professionals can improve their relationships with reporters and media professionals? Do you have any advice?
Ha! Yes! This is my favorite question. Do not pitch stories on a beat I covered five years ago; do not pitch products to a publication that doesn’t do such things (i.e. most news organizations). All of this is essentially saying “do your homework” or you won’t be taken seriously.
What is the most important lesson about communication you’ve learned throughout your career?
In any contentious situation, speaking face to face or over the phone beats email or electronic communication of some sort. This is true whether you’re dealing with sources, coworkers, bosses or whomever.
The communication industry is constantly evolving; how do you envision the future of reporting and communication? Are there things you hope to see change, or things you hope stay the same?
Someone needs to pay for journalism! What we are doing here — unique reporting on specialized topics — is one way of the future. But, of course, there are many ways to do it. Hopefully, the recent election cycle and the spread of fake news is teaching people that journalism costs money and new models are needed now that advertising revenue has gone out the window.
Rapid Fire Round:
- My ideal day off would include… going for a run or hike in the park, with it being about 60 degrees. Having lunch, then reading the Sunday paper and a good book. Going to live music or a great movie in the evening.
- My biggest pet peeve is… people talking loudly on their phone in public places.
- My hobbies outside of work include… going to the movies and browsing bookstores.
- If I could live anywhere, it would be… London.
- When I was young I wanted to be…. an actress or a journalist.