Crain’s senior well being care reporter Jay Greene retired this week, after a 24-year profession at Crain Communications, first at Trendy Healthcare the place he coated nonprofit hospitals, then at Crain’s Detroit Enterprise, the place he has labored since 2008.
Jay and I talked over Zoom about how he acquired into journalism, what has modified in his subject alongside the best way and what it has been wish to cowl the once-in-a-generation well being care story of COVID-19.
Listed here are highlights from our dialog, edited for size and readability.
AEB: So, you simply spent the final yr protecting the largest story of your profession — in your final yr as a well being care reporter.
Greene: Yeah, there’s that. I’ve had folks inform me through the years, ‘Jay, in case you write this story, it will be the largest story you ever wrote!’ However what you simply mentioned wasn’t an overstatement. That is for positive.
Presently in 2019, there have been about 5 fairly good well being care reporters in Michigan. After COVID, there are like 500 good ones. Everyone is a well being care reporter, and has needed to study loads.
The previous 15, 16 months jogs my memory of after I began out my profession. I used to be interning on the Miami Herald, as principally a cop reporter. I went round to all of the totally different precincts in Miami, police studies and interviewing cops and writing little briefs and sending them to the information desk. After which in my first couple of years, I used to be on town desk on the Bradenton (Fla.) Herald and we might take turns protecting the weekend cop beat, Friday and Saturday evening, the place we might take heed to a police scanner, race out to accidents and crimes. That is how I felt — I used to be writing all these accidents, folks dying and getting maimed and murdered. And that is what this felt like. Like I used to be again as an intern or a first-year reporter protecting accidents. So it is sort of ironic. I began off spending a whole lot of time doing that. And that is how I am ending it.
How did you address the psychological load of the previous yr? Has it been laborious for you?
I approached it like I approached a whole lot of these earlier tales. I keep in mind an accident the place some man was killed — he was fishing off of the Cortez bridge in Bradenton, and he acquired hit by a automobile and killed. So I’ve acquired that police report, interviewed the cop and a few witnesses down there, and I acquired the title and I acquired his handle. And I appeared up the telephone quantity, the way you used to do it within the huge phone e book. And I known as his house quantity and a lady answered — it was his spouse. She did not even know — I broke the information that her husband had died and needed to clarify. And I am going to always remember that. And I’ve achieved that a minimum of 5 occasions that I can keep in mind. This lady whose husband died, she thanked me for calling and requested if I might do her a favor — she mentioned, ‘May you cancel my subscription, as a result of I am transferring again to Ohio,’ as a result of she was a snowbird. And I mentioned, ‘Certain, I am going to deal with it.’ And I keep in mind strolling over there and telling subscriptions about it and giving her title and quantity.
…I used to be sort of mad about coronavirus. Particularly within the early days, I used to be listening to from nurses and ER medical doctors and help those who they weren’t correctly protected with PPE. Then when issues began easing up, there have been all these folks upset as a result of they’d their COVID pay taken away, however they nonetheless had been being requested to work additional hours. After which the entire thing — how the political folks had been coping with it, the controversies over the masks and whether or not COVID actually exists. I used to be sort of upset about all that. And I could not actually write that a lot about it — I did a little bit bit, in my 4 or 5 blogs about (my spouse) Olya getting COVID and me feeling sick and getting examined. However I attempted to put in writing all that stuff from (the attitude of) — these are well being care heroes, they usually’re actually attempting laborious in opposition to all adversity to assist folks.
The well being care business was not ready for this. And I hope that we have realized some classes for the subsequent pandemic. That is what all the large consultants say, I am not breaking any information right here. But when you must carry on saying that, as a result of in each occasion of any sort of catastrophe, folks will wring their palms and say, ‘We have got to do higher,’ after which they’re going to simply go on with what they’re doing. There will be different priorities. However we undoubtedly want to speculate extra in public well being. That must be primary. And we have to ensure that we’re ready for the worst case situation.
How did you get your begin as a journalist?
My dad wished me to be a lawyer and take over his legislation observe. As a child, as a result of my dad was a lawyer, I watched Perry Mason reruns. I preferred Perry, however I preferred extra his chief detective Paul Drake. He was the best man — I wished to be a detective, or I wished to be Dr. Seuss. I majored in environmental science my first two years at College of Florida. However I spotted I did not wish to be an environmental engineer. They had been too stressed — it jogged my memory a little bit of my dad, who labored 60, 70, 80 hours every week.
I made a decision to modify majors to journalism — what I actually wished to do … was to put in writing in regards to the surroundings. Rising up in Florida there have been a whole lot of environmental points — phosphate mining and saltwater intrusion and improvement. Florida had (a inhabitants of) 2 million after I was dwelling there, there are like 18 million now, and builders have destroyed mangroves, and there is every kind of bribery and corruption, all tied into the surroundings.
I acquired into well being care as a result of I used to be a county authorities reporter, and the county owned the hospital. So I began protecting hospital board conferences and that form of factor.
I began at Crain Communications in 1987 to cowl nonprofit hospitals for Trendy Healthcare. I might come into work within the morning, get there between 8:30 and eight:45, and stroll within the entrance door, and the safety guard, Lorenzo, can be there greeting folks. Each from time to time, Gertrude Crain — I all the time known as her Mrs. Crain — who was the CEO of Crain, can be standing there greeting folks coming in. She did this up till she retired, for 7 or 8 years, so I acquired to know her. She was so pleasant, and he or she was all the time dressed to the hilt. She had the best requirements, and he or she knew virtually all people.
…. So would you like me to inform you about how I got here to Detroit?
Yeah — when did that occur?
I resigned from Trendy Healthcare to maneuver to St. Paul, my ex-wife’s hometown. So I began freelancing and acquired a part-time job on the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Round 2007, I acquired laid off, and the financial system began getting dangerous for newspapers. (Crain’s Detroit Enterprise) was searching for a brand new healthcare reporter, and Cindy (Goodaker, then govt editor of CDB) talked to Dave Burda, who’d turn into the editor of Trendy Healthcare. And he mentioned, “You have to discuss to Jay.” In order that they flew me out, in January of 2008.