State of Reform’s DJ Wilson Interviews Diane Lund-Muzikant — Part 1
Diane Lund-Muzikant is editor-in-chief of The Lund Report— the first independent Web site in Oregon dedicated to educating the public about the inner workings of the health care industry as well as a must-read for many industry insiders.
Recently, State of Reform’s DJ Wilson sat down with Diane to ask about her work, her background, and her passion for investigative journalism.
In part one of this three-part interview, Diane tells DJ about her decision to launch Oregon Health Forum in 1990 and the events that led to her departure 16 years later. She went on to launch The Lund Report. (Part two, in which Diane talks about her formational experiences, and part three, in which she talks about the future of journalism, health care and The Lund Report, are also available.)
DJ: Let’s start with your name. Folks know you as Diane Lund, but that’s incomplete, right?
I’m Diane Lund-Muzikant. That’s my professional name, not my legal name, because of my husband, best friend, and biggest supporter, Michael Muzikant. He’s a pharmacist, he’s retired, and he’s a great, great man.
DJ: What do you think is the purpose of The Lund Report?
I think it’s to delve deep into the healthcare system and find out what’s really going on behind the scenes. What makes it work? Where is the money going? What’s happening to quality of care? What’s happening to access? It’s to go beyond the day to day events, with the press conferences and public meetings such as Cover Oregon. We do a lot of other things besides investigative work, but I think our core function is to delve deeper, and that’s what either makes people love what we do or fear us because of what might appear—because we’re not just a regular news site.
DJ: At State of Reform, we see ourselves as analysts. We don’t see ourselves as journalists, but you wear the journalist mantle proudly…
I’ve been a journalist all my life.
DJ: But you’re also very much a healthcare insider, right? You may not think of yourself as that, but I think of you that way.
I became that because I’ve been covering health policy since the mid-‘80s. It’s become part of who I am.
DJ: Tell me about meeting Aaron Katz.
I was doing freelance work for the Multnomah County Medical Society and some national media.
I happened to meet Aaron Katz, who was running a publication called Washington Health, and he encouraged me to launch something similar here. So I launched the Oregon Health Forum, a non-profit, in May of 1990. And our first issue made people stand up and watch because we wrote that Stan Long, then head of SAIF, intended to step down, which actually happened several months later.
We wrote a very compelling story, which got some people’s attention. And Stan Long called for me to be dismissed, but my board said we stand behind her because she tells the truth.
DJ: How many times has that happened in your career?
Mmmm, several. The hospital association came before the board and encouraged them to fire me. And in the end, they did fire me. But I stood proud. I told them that “If you want me to leave, you’ll have to fire me.” And they did.
When I left, the industry won.
Not that the industry is bad. But there are certain things the industry would prefer not be disclosed, like salaries, profits, what’s going on behind the scenes with personnel issues. There are certain things they don’t want out there.
DJ: Tell me about that and the Oregon Health Forum.
I created the Oregon Health Forum in 1990 and ran it for 16 years.
I was the editor and also ran all of the health policy events. I was working a lot of hours, and I encouraged the board to hire someone to run all the events and call that person the executive director. We were supposed to have a separation of powers, but it didn’t turn out that way.
That person convinced the board that I needed to leave because I was creating a lot of controversy writing stories about insurers such as Kaiser and others, and she had a difficult time raising sponsorships for events. We had a difficult time seeing eye to eye about events and the newsletter.
The board decided that I needed to leave, and they made that decision in September of 2006. And it happened.
I got a lawyer – Nick Fish, who is now a city commissioner – and I filed a lawsuit. It cost me a lot of money but I took it, not to get my job back, but I did it to uphold my dignity. And in the end, I got a statement that said I had made a significant difference in creating the organization and making it sustainable. So I walked out proudly.
Unfortunately, several years after I left, the organization folded because of a lack of money.
Part of the problem was the publication lost its impact. People used to say that when the newsletter arrived in the mail, people would rip it open to see what stories were inside. But it lost the edge it used to have. There were other reasons, I’m sure, financial troubles.
It was very unfortunate. Basically, I didn’t do a good job preparing for how the roles would be different, and how the roles would change. I blame myself for part of that, but looking back, I think it was inevitable.
You can’t be an investigative journalist who is writing about the industry, and expect the industry to support you at the same time.
DJ: What do you think of this reputation that you have?
I have two reputations. I have one reputation as a very hard working investigative reporter who will do almost anything to get at the truth. I have a lot of confidential sources, and I am really proud of that.
I have another reputation as a wonderful wife, mother, a friend, as a colleague. I’m a totally different person outside of work.
DJ: What do you do outside of work?
I do tons of things. I go to the symphony with my husband. We travel. We have wonderful friends. I work out at the gym all the time. I take philosophy classes at the university. I love to cook. I love to read. I mean, I’m not the same, I’m not as hard driving 24/7 as some people think I am.
I take pleasure also in helping young people learn and dig and become basically the investigative reporters that we need. I take a lot of pleasure in that.
DJ: What is the thing that you are most passionate about, outside of health care? Leave all the professional stuff aside, what excites you?
Travel. Travel is my #1 joy in life. I have a lot of things I love to do, not just one, but going to new and different places all the time. I’m fortunate to have a husband who loves to travel as well.
DJ: What’s next on the list?
Brazil. I’ll be there with 2 million other people jumping in the waves on New Year’s Eve. (This interview was conducted in late December.)
Read part two of the three part series here.