Watching the watchdogs
By David Baker
Posted Thursday July 2, 2015
Once again this week, ads for St. Peter's Health Partners are everywhere in the Albany (N.Y.) Times Union.
Here's the tally for Sunday: One full page, one strip across the bottom of page 1, and five quarter-page ads.
Then there are at least three quarter-pages and one full page every other day of the week. An ad on its smartphone app. And an ad on the paper's web page, announcing that the latest news is sponsored by the company.
That's the schedule, week after week.
And that's in just one of the area three daily newspapers. Then there are the commercials on radio and TV.
St. Peter's Heath Partners is spending a lot of money promoting itself - in an area where, following a 2011 merger, it dominates the healthcare market.
But as the many posts on my web page and blog suggest, this spending brings an added benefit: Information about lawsuits alleging deaths and injuries from negligence are ignored. It doesn't matter how serious the harm, how unusual the claim or how high the settlement - nothing appears in the newspapers.
And it's not only allegations of medical harm that don't get coverage; lawsuits against St. Perter's Health Partners alleging sexual harassment and discrimination are also ignored, even as similar claims against non-advertisers get prominent stories.
Even more disturbing is that so-called media watchdogs - the editors at the Columbia Journalism Review in particular - say it's not a story.
Why? Because lots of newspapers are doing the same thing. There's nothing unusual about it, they say, therefore it's not news.
That's a disturbing assessment of journalism in this country. And apparently it's shared by several other self-appointed media monitors who, over the past several years, have shown no interest in the situation. Most of them didn't bother to reply to my correspondence, apparently unwilling to acknowledge what appears to be an open secret: news pages are for sale. American's big media is inherently corrupt.
I am in the process of setting up a new web page on which I will name these people. I will also post a series of e-mail messages to and from CJR, going back to 2006.
They paint a deeply disturbing picture, in which information of obvious public interest is routinely suppressed.
And media critics, in on the deal, look the other way.