The entire editorials column in Sunday's L.A. Times was devoted to the first effort in what appears to be an ambitious months-long campaign against malaria in Africa. The 1,400-word piece was reportedly written by Dan Turner, an assistant editor on the editorial pages. He writes:
If a biblical plague slaughtered every man, woman and child in Philadelphia, it would not equal some estimates of the death toll from malaria in the last 12 months.
Well, some might say, the world is full of tragedy. We can't cure all disease or save all lost children. But these acres of graves are the needless legacy of a disease that we have known how to cure for a century. And each life might have been saved for about $2 — less than the price of a latte.
Turner is a holdover from the Janet Clayton era who has apparently won favor with the Michael Kinsley-Andrés Martinez regime now in place. Newsroom buzz says he will be heading to Africa to report future editorials, which if true stands to be noticed in other departments facing a new round of budget tightness (photographers were the latest to be told to watch expenses closely.) Sending someone on the road could also add to the workload and churlishness of the handful of editorial writers left since last month's purge. The louder whispers heard about this new crusade, however, are intrigued that malaria is also a major philanthropic emphasis of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where Kinsley's wife is the co-chair and president. Patty Stonesifer's personal focus is global health issues, and the foundation last month announced a new $35 million commitment to fight malaria. Apparently there was consideration at the Times given to including a disclosure of some sort with Sunday's editorial, but nothing ran. (* Oops, yes it did: The editorial mentions that the Gates Foundation is also involved in malaria eradication, discloses the Kinsley relationship and includes what the foundation is doing in the solutions paragraph.)
** Further update: The malaria series is Martinez's idea. He traveled to several continents for his Pulitzer-finalist package of editorials on agriculture and poverty while at the New York Times, and emails: "I certainly wasn't going to allow Mike's marriage to get in the way of one of this age's most savage killers...If we couldn't ever write about the Gates Foundation's issues, we'd be precluded from ever writing about most health matters and public education in this country."