The Intersection of Media and Policy: A Case Study

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Policy, politics & nursing practice




government; journalism; media; nurses; organizational cutlure; policy


From October 2008 through 2010, journalists Charles Ornstein and Tracey Weber produced for the and a series of investigative reports on the performance of the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN), finding that it took an average of 3.5 years to act on complaints of professional misconduct by registered nurses, including sexual assault of patients, substance use, and repeat medication errors that resulted in patients dying. In June 2009, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that he was firing members of the BRN. Its executive officer resigned shortly thereafter. This case study analyzes interviews with nine participants, including the journalists and individuals who were public and nurse members of the BRN in 2009. Four themes emerged: (1) There is a tension between what are perceived to be the public's interests versus nursing's interests; (2) Political naiveté about government and organizational culture can lead to the personalization of actions directed at institutions; (3) A sense of fatalism may be reinforced by organizational culture; and (4) The role and use of media in a free society may be obscured when one is the focus of investigative journalism. Nurses who seek to operate in the public sector must be grounded in the political realities of complex governmental forces that may appear to be illogical or personally offensive. Media, particularly news media, is a powerful tool for influencing these forces. Nurses should employ strategic approaches to the use of media in order to advance their voices as advocates for the public's interests.


Nursing Faculty Publications