DEATH OF NEWSPAPERS AND THE RISE OF MISINFORMATION
It is likely the Alameda County Board of Supervisors will force Sutter Health to faithfully negotiate with Prime Healthcare, the owner of 13 hospitals in the state and known for a few shady business operations, itself to purchase San Leandro Hospital. The problem is, nobody except for a few intrepid citizens know anything about the health care provider and its charismatic owner, Dr. Prem Reddy. Even County Board President Alice Lai-Bitker told The Citizen last Monday she did not know anything about Prime.
People work. A construction worker erects buildings, a dentist fixes teeth. These and other occupations when you include family time do not lend themselves to find and construct the news. This is a journalist’s job. So, why isn’t the local news outlets–namely, the Daily Review and San Leandro Times not doing their job?
The Citizen was born to fill an enormous hole in local news. The San Leandro Times can still tell you which house burned down, who got shot, whose bike was stolen and who recently passed (I check the Times obits every Thursday, myself). The Daily Review is sadly owned by one of the most spendthrift newspaper operators in the country in Singleton. Neither, though, are giving you the information you need to make an informed decision on the fate of your hospital.
As your morning paper shrinks into oblivion, your knowledge of your surroundings quickly dwindles to nothing. That’s an obvious equation. Without some sort of guardian for the people like The Citizen, people will invariable become misinformed and ripe for manipulation. This can already be seen at many hearings regarding the San Leandro Hospital story. A mere mention of the anointed hospital savior Prime Healthcare elicits lusty cheers amidst hooting and hollering. My Pavlovian brain now tells me either the Raiders just scored a touchdown or a public official just uttered the words Prime Healthcare.
If the Daily Review would have reported the dark side of this billion dollar company and its wealthy-centric view of healthcare, the exuberance would be rightly dampened. The only positive with the inclusion of Prime Healthcare is the county has at least one possible suitor and one desperately needed additional option.
The June 9 article published in the Daily Review by Karen Holzmeister is one of the most egregious and potentially harmful pieces of journalism that dulls the senses of media consumers in its simplicity. The article’s bias is appalling to the point where you don’t know whether the author simply did not have ample space to question the other side of all the goodies Reddy was offering or the paper is willingly going along with anything that makes people happy in the short term.
To readers picking up their morning paper, the revelation that Reddy would give San Leandro everything they wanted and needed plus an extra $20 million for our trouble must have felt like not just Christmas in June, but the greatest Christmas ever! There was not a quote, fact or corroborated allegation to dampen our city’s unbelievable luck in being chosen by Prime Healthcare. In fact, the Daily Review has published just one mention of the alleged shoddy business policies of Prime Healthcare. In a piece from June 7, Holzmeister included at brief paragraph at the end of the article that notes the California Nurses Association’s web site contains links with alternative narratives to the generosity of Prime along with a quote from San Leandro School Board President Mike Katz’s blog questioning whether Prime is the type of company the city wants. Here’s the paragraph:
Prime has offered to honor current employee contracts, but articles on the association Web site question Prime’s billing practices. And, San Leandro community blogger Mike Katz-Lacabe — president of the San Leandro school board — this weekend asked, “Is Prime Healthcare the type of company that Sutter Health critics want” because of insurance contract cancellations and suspension of services such as chemotherapy treatments and mental health care?
The implication is the articles that might describe Prime’s unfriendliness with poorer patients, the cancelling of healthcare insurance deals and suspect billing procedures were posted by an entity with an ax to grind against the company.
Subsequently, the Daily Review is setting up the citizens of San Leandro for greater problems than they perceived to have had with Sutter if more information about the recklessness of Prime is not aired. Near daily articles on the closing of San Leandro Hospital by the Daily Review have published a mere 63 words to illustrate the other side of Prime’s wonderful offer. Believe me, another deal with the Devil deserves far more inspection. One like this: click here to read about Prime Healthcare’s checkered reputation.