Meet the Editor Behind the Healthcare Headlines (Part 2)
PublishedAugust 4, 2021
Andrew Le, MD: Looking back on the last six years at Business Insider, is there a story you passed on that you wish you had run or a line of coverage you wanted to tackle more thoroughly?
Lydia Ramsey Pflanzer: The beauty of stepping into an editor position is that I can green light those stories in a way that I couldn't do before. When COVID first hit the U.S., we left a lot of stories on the cutting room table—and those are the ones I think about the most.
My reporter Shelby Livingston came back to one of those stories a couple of weeks ago. It’s about HRAs [health reimbursement arrangements] and how some people can shop around for health plans because their employer sets aside funds for them. It’s a different approach to employer coverage and was really nice to finally see that play out.
Andrew: That's fascinating. You've built this fantastic healthcare team, and Business Insider is considered to be one of healthcare's leading sources of information. What do you think has been the biggest driver of your success in terms of covering healthcare? It's a crowded space. A lot of people are covering it. What has been the secret sauce for you?
Lydia: There are a few things. One is simply being present by going to industry conferences, reaching out to people, and making those connections. That's a lot of the work I did in building the team. The other thing is that at Insider in general—and on the healthcare team specifically—we pick our spots. We're not here to cover every piece of healthcare news. We're not going to cover every funding round in the same way.
Everyone in digital media is trying to differentiate at this point. We say “no” to many stories. That's something I couldn’t do in my first couple of years because I was trying to be everywhere at once. But as we've grown a team, our ability to refuse has helped focus our work.
We empower our reporters to go out and cover the hard stories. Anybody can get a press release, read it, talk to the founder, talk to the investors, put the story out. That's a great story, and it's one we do often. But there are other stories to be told. We had two reporters really dig into what Walmart's up to in healthcare. It was great to be able to get inside a big company and figure out what's happening. I'm hopeful that's the kind of work that'll keep differentiating us and keep us relevant in the healthcare media world.
We say “no” to many stories. That's something I couldn’t do in my first couple of years because I was trying to be everywhere at once.
Andrew: In that regard, do you have a bench of experts that you've curated over time and if so, what is the next set of experts that you're looking to add to your roster?
Lydia: It's a great question. I always try to have people I can call on at any given moment. But the truth is healthcare can be so wide. One minute you can be covering vaccines and have a pool of vaccine experts. And that could be totally different than in the early days of COVID when antibody treatments were a big topic. So, it's hard to keep a bench of go-to people. The way I think about it is I have a bench of people I can check things with, or they'll be really great at finding tips or noticing things.
It's not always the people on Twitter everyday tweeting about everything. It's people who are watching the industry and have an interest in one piece or another. I think my reporters have deeper benches of experts at this point. I am mostly editing and coaching. I miss the thrill of hearing something for the first time.
Andrew: You're turning from a player to a coach. There are so many parallels between a company’s strategy and your individual strategy and then the strategy of your whole team—your focus, saying “no,” figuring out what your niche is, and running hard at that.
You came in straight out of college and grew this team. It feels like the storyline of a movie. If you were to speak to the next batch of journalism majors coming out of college, what advice would you give them about charting their own path and finding the success you've enjoyed?
Lydia: The advice I always give journalism students is to never sleep on business journalism. Business journalism is a great place to find fascinating stories. You can make the case that anything can be a business story. You can always follow the dollar. In journalism school, it can feel like local reporting or politics reporting are the only options. Business reporting, at least in my education, didn't come to the front.
Convincing Business Insider to let me have a beat and growing that beat over time came down to owning my spot and being the go-to healthcare person. Some people are well served by being entirely flexible and able to cover anything on any given day. But there's a lot of value in saying, "Look, if you need to write a story on Theranos, for instance, you need to call me. I can help you. I have the background to talk to the experts. I know what I'm doing.” Having that expertise and owning a beat is how I've been able to grow my career.
About the participants:
Lydia Ramsey Pflanzer is the healthcare editor for Business Insider.
Andrew Le, MD, is the CEO and cofounder of Buoy Health.