The story below outlines Croakey’s history and our ambitions. We welcome your suggestions and comments. (Please contact us here.)
Croakey is an ever-evolving journalism project that aims to provide a public service for those who care about the community’s health and well-being.
We do not approach health through a narrow clinical or disciplinary lens, but take a holistic view that recognises the health of individuals is connected to the health of communities, societies and the planet.
Our work is underpinned by an appreciation of the importance of equitable access to health-producing environments as well as to healthcare, particularly primary healthcare. We look for health in all policies, not only from the health sector or health portfolios.
We value open and informed public debate. We also value the engaged members of our community and digital networks who seek to hold power to account and to provide much-needed scrutiny of the interests affecting our health and wellbeing.
We work with and for our communities. Croakey is not an organisation in the conventional sense. We are a lean outfit with a small budget and no full-time staff.
We are probably best described as “a connective” of people who work together on different projects – whether as the Croakey moderators and authors on publishing articles at this site, or as journalists, writers and others collaborating on specific projects.
We particularly enjoy it when readers become collaborators, working with us on projects like @WePublicHealth, #IHMayDay, The Health Wrap, and the Naked Doctor column, as well as crowd-funded initiatives like The Koori Woman columns, #WonkyHealth, #JustJustice, and #CripCroakey.
We call ourselves a “social journalism” project because there was an instant snap of recognition – “that’s what we do!” – when we read this description of the emerging field of social journalism.
US journalism academic and innovator Professor Jeff Jarvis writes about how social journalism must listen to a community in order to work out how it can contribute to meeting their needs:
“The answer sometimes — often — will be reporting and content. But it can also mean connecting the members of the community to each other to share information themselves. It can mean sharing data and tools rather than developing narratives. It can mean helping a community to organize itself to take action (yes, that’s community organizing). It can be education. It must be collaborative. Social journalists will judge their success instead by whether the public they serve and its members accomplish their goals, meet their needs, improve their lots and their communities — and whether they connect with each other to better understand each other through discussion and information.”
History of Croakey
The Croakey project was born out of conversations in early 2007 about mainstream media’s coverage of health issues, involving public health academic Professor Simon Chapman and journalists Melissa Sweet and Mark Ragg. Journalist Ray Moynihan was also part of these discussions at different times.
We talked about ways to create structures and processes that might enable the development of counter-narratives to the mainstream focus on medical “breakthroughs”, hospital beds, and lifestyle choices.
Chapman, who at that time wrote regularly for the Crikey e-news bulletin, picked up the phone to its publisher Eric Beecher and suggested we would set up a panel of experts to provide informed articles about topical health issues.
Melissa Sweet took on the founding and moderation of the Crikey Health and Medical Panel, as outlined in this 2009 article in The Medical Journal of Australia, CHAMP: A novel collaboration between public health and the media (abstract is free; full article is not but if you want a copy, please contact Croakey).
From mid 2007 until the end of October 2009, Crikey paid Melissa Sweet for coordinating the CHAMP. By this time, the Croakey blog had been established. Although it sat on the Crikey website, its editorial operations were run by Melissa Sweet, independently of Crikey.
Melissa Sweet was the founding moderator of Croakey and ran it by herself until late 2012, when health policy consultant and analyst Jennifer Doggett came on board to help with moderation, as did health consultant Michelle Culhane-Hughes in early 2013. In August 2013, journalist and editor Marie McInerney joined the Croakey collective (former Fairfax journalist Mark Metherell was also briefly involved).
In mid-2013, the Sax Institute launched a probono contribution, The Health Wrap, which is compiled every fortnight by experienced health and medical journalist/editor Kellie Bisset and her colleagues.
Many others have also contributed to various projects with Croakey, including Kelly Briggs, Dr Justin Coleman, Summer May Finlay, Dr Lynore Geia, El Gibbs, Dr Tim Senior and the many who have reported for the Croakey Conference News Service.
The Croakey contributors’ list includes more than 250 people who want to help contribute to a more informed and wide-ranging public debate about health issues.
In June 2015, the Croakey project won a $5,000 grant from the Walkleys Grants for Innovation in Journalism which was used to fund the redevelopment of Croakey as this standalone platform. We acknowledge and thank the Walkleys Foundation and the sponsors of these grants. We also acknowledge and thank the team at Crikey who have previously hosted us.
We hope that having a standalone platform will enable us to provide a better service to our readers, contributors and funders, and that it will enable us to continue developing and hopefully also to become more financially sustainable.
We welcome your feedback and suggestions for how we can continue to develop and improve.
• The National Library of Australia archives Croakey for its PANDORA project.