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Sugar,There is a fine line between explaining and justifying. I have attempted to explain our reasoning and to listen to and consider other points of view. Our ethics board will consider all of this discussion, plus their own thoughts, during the meeting next week. We have members of the board who are not part of the newspaper staff and have invited expert guests to talk as well. I'll report back after the meeting, too.
I won't pretend to be privy to whatever "specific agenda" Getsmart may or may not have, nor is it any of my business, but I know I have seen some posts by Getsmart that have brought up many pertinent questions and observations, yet they get deleted. Again, though, none of my business except that if they had been left for others to see, may have given a more well-rounded picture of the discussion at hand.
Chris, I myself have refrained from posting on this topic save for my response to Dr. Vaughan's excellent letter to the editor. Dr. Vaughan was absolutely straightforward and made excellent points in his letter. I think it speaks for itself. I am sorry you seem to not be able to admit the Victoria Advocate erred in this circumstance. My intention is not to attack you, but when you blog to invite public input, I will speak my mind, as will many others. I mean absolutely no disrespect, and I understand that ethics in any business is not always a cut and dried issue. I would hope that you understand your public's point of view here, even the ones contrary to your own, and learn from them. I do expect a newpaper's editor and his underlings to be able to decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong before printing things instead of blogging after the fact only after someone has voiced a complaint and looking for public approval to make sure you did the right thing.
In my opinion, and it is only that, you and your paper erred. By going public to discuss this and so many other "iffy" scenarios, seeking validation, and then refusing to ACTUALLY LISTEN to what others say, pro and con, about the topic, you make a bad situation worse and threaten any credibility you and the paper may have.
Thanks, Tophat. We sometimes are accused of selectively reporting the news, but our mission always is to inform the public and let the people decide what to do with the news they learn.
Neighbor, we report on medical malpractice cases because of the importance of the health care the public receives. Some of the other civil court examples you cite probably wouldn't rise to the same level of importance. Many people read the story about the case in question and were able to conclude from the information presented there that there wasn't cause to worry about the care provided by the doctor.
GetSmart, we have lots of ways to talk with the public. We just concluded a series of "Be your own Advocate" community sessions, and we likely will be scheduling some variation of these in the coming year. Our morning news meetings are to discuss the news of the day, although we allow quite a bit of latitude in what that means.
We also plan to be scheduling more time in our Advocate cafeteria, which now offers public wifi, for journalists to chat with the public over coffee or lunch. Stay tuned for scheduling information as we iron out those details.
Of course, we have communicated with you many times in emails and phone conversations about your specific agenda. We don't have time to keep covering the same ground with the same person. Our 10 a.m. meetings -- any others -- are not for this purpose.
As I stated in previous comment- I prefer the VA to review all potential story lines and pick the items that appear most news worthyNot going to please everybody every time. It is better to print a story than to be accused of purposely not printing a particular story.
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My apologies for being slow to respond. This is my first day back in the office after a bout of chickenpox. My day has been spent talking to a lot of people in the office and catching up.
Born2bme, we asked the doctor and the clinic for comment and gave them extra time to respond before publishing the story. We understand, though, that many defendants in such suits are advised by lawyers to not comment. We certainly still would be willing to write about the doctor and the clinic if they were willing to be interviewed.
Unmoored, you ask an excellent question. Our court reporter asked the chief clerk this question and learned five malpractice cases were filed in Victoria district court in 2011. The clerk indicates this number seems close to the typical annual average. We found none in Victoria federal court last year.
We did not report on the other four because they escaped our weekly district court rounds somehow. Our reporter is going to go back to try to review those cases to see why that would be and whether they still warrant any coverage after the fact.
Dig, yes, all of our newsroom staff have degrees in journalism or related fields. In the "good old days," editors chose stories based on what they thought was important or interesting and did not consult with the readers.
The conventional wisdom these days is that journalists should talk with the audience and share our reasoning. We think we improve our work by explaining our thinking and by listening to and learning from our audience.
I see your point, but nothing tugs at a persons heartstrings more than the thought of someone being responsible for an injury to a baby.With that in mind, I wonder how much this has hurt the doctor's practice. Have you done a follow-up on that?
How many medical malpractice suits were filed in Victoria County in 2011? How many were covered in the Advocate?
Born2beme,Thank you so much for all of the consideration you've given this difficult issue.
Most legal experts don't worry about tainting a jury pool in cases such as this. We have 90,000 readers, but few retain enough of the details from such limited coverage to prevent them from sitting impartially as a juror.
Here are links to a few other civil court cases that have prompted some negative reaction:
I really don't know the correct answer. On one hand, reporting it at all might taint a jury selection by swaying public opinion, and on the other hand, if something is amiss at the clinic, people need to know about it.I think I kind of lean toward waiting to publish anything until more concrete facts are available. My immediate feelings when I read the articles were that this doesn't belong in the paper right now and I started trying to think back if I had ever read something like this before at this stage. I can say that I cannot remember reading anything like this before. I didn't feel like the doctor's side of it was explained as strongly as the woman's side was, leaving the mother at an unfair advantage in public .I do, however, understand that medical lingo is hard for most readers to undertand.
I don't think I know where the expectation of privacy starts and ends anymore. Anyone can find out if a person paid last year's property taxes and the value of their home. The person who brought the lawsuit, friends, relatives and lawyer knows of the case and I'm sure they have put their spin on it. The best way to squash a rumor is to provide a link to the PDF of the lawsuit,as Chris stated. Depending on the importance of the case, placement should be given consideration.
It's the same way with suicide, treat with the respect it deserves but report it or else we are left with rumors.
Born2bme,You're right that the cases are too different to be easily compared. I should have stuck with comparing to another civil case, such as the one involving the doctors suing Citizens. Complicated medical and business issues are disputed. Reputations are on the online. The case already has stretched out a long time, and appeals could stretch it further.
Should we have waited until this case was all over, whenever that is, to report on it? Or is it also different because the case is primarily against a public institution (although individuals also were named in the suit)?
Thanks again for the conversation.
Since the two scenerios are so totally different, and the main reason being that medicine is so intricate and not easily understood by the average reader, while a murder with a eye witness is kind of cut and dry.With the doctor/baby story, you have people jumping to conclusions in favor of the mother, for purely emotional reasons, and others that know more about certain medical procedures, angry that a doctor they know and love is getting slammed by people that know nothing about the medical part of this.There is not enough pertinent information to make the story fair to either side.
If a report has confirmed sources, the paper should report it. Personally I do want the paper to decide for me what is "news". I place my own merit to any report. Lawsuit can/ often should be reported as news- I can decide for myself. Many lawsuits are filed against/by any number of entities in the area. Most do not warrant reporting, that is the editorial process of determining importance of printing. Public offices holders/seekers should fully expect full reporting. That is the nature of the beast.Only point I prefer to be seriously considered carefully - is rather the given story is front page or buried elsewhere. Suicide (case in point) should be reported, just not on front page. Paper has always respected the deceased and family. Continue on printing the news.
Born2bme,I sympathize a great deal with that position. People should be considered innocent until proven guilty, yet no matter how much we write that people invariably jump to conclusions.
The catch? Our justice system is set up to work under the scrutiny of the public. Would you also have us not report on the suspect recently arrested in the Bloomington death? He has not been found guilty of anything yet, but he's under arrest and certainly under a heavy cloud of public suspicion.
I'm trying to get at the gray areas with this discussion. This doctor has a good reputation, by all accounts, and certainly deserves full consideration as such. Exactly where, though, we draw that line for a doctor vs. a common person?
WriteIn, thank you for jumping in here and illustrating why I'm asking people to stay on the subject at hand. This isn't the place to debate Fox, MSNBC or every story the Advocate has or hasn't ever published. We have other forums, including our 10 a.m. webcasts, other blogs, emails and phone calls, for that.
It seems to me that there is a strong need for media reform, from Fox News, MSNBC, CNN and down to the country rural newspaper like VicAd. The Fourth Estate may not be perfect, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t seek perfection in the stories and articles. Since the County Judge election of 2010 was brought up, I’ll put myself in GREAT RISK in saying the following. If it is just and right to dived into the personal life of Matt Ocker the Republican candidate, then why not the Democratic candidate and that candidate’s problems? Love him or hate him, Ocker’s family didn’t deserve the hit piece.
During the whole UHV/Texas A&M story, I have yet to see the Victoria Advocate do a piece on campaign contributions State Rep Geanie Morrison received in prior elections. I have to add that A&M as well as Texas Tech donated money to the Morrison campaign in 2006 and 2008 I believe.
I have to agree with Edith Ann on the first baby story. Just because a family freely offered details that doesn’t mean a reporter should print any and everything that is stated. That story only serves to invite “soccer moms” and other people who have too much time on their hands to attack and flame the parents of that child.
The culture of journalism in the Western world, mainly here in America, needs to change. It is mile wide and an inch deep.
IMHO, I don't think any coverage should be reported until after the fact, because as you said, everyone is innocent until proven guilty.The general public will always make incorrect assumptions without all of the facts, and all of the facts are usually only brought to the forefront during a trial. Why try to sway public opinion about a doctor, or anyone for that matter? It is a reputation and career you are toying with.Save the analysis until after the trial.
No need to do that. I'm just trying to keep people focused on this important issue. We have many other opportunities, such as during our 10 a.m. webcasts or on the phone or email, to discuss other coverage.
If you have thoughts on my follow-up questions about this issue, that would be most appreciated.
Well, pardon me! It was never my intent to mess up your thread. I'll remove the offending posts.
I'll write more about our suicide policy in a subsequent post. Regarding the baby coverage, we certainly can agree to disagree.
I'll ask you and others to please try to stay on the topic at hand. Thank you.
Thanks for your feedback on the issue at hand. I'll ask the same follow-up questions from earlier regarding that position:
Are there any circumstances in an another medical malpractice lawsuit that you could envision would warrant a longer story or more prominent placement? Would this approach apply to other civil court cases on our list as well? For example, the letter writer criticizing the malpractice coverage did say he wanted more coverage of the doctors' suit against the hospital. That also is a civil case.
Regarding the other issue you raise, we plan to also review our suicide coverage during our upcoming ethics board meeting. Our current policy is to report on all suicides of which we are aware, but with a small story on an inside page, as we did in this case. I'll post more about this issue later.
Regarding the first baby, we encourage reporters to include meaningful details in their stories. These details make any story come alive. I would support including these particular details, offered freely by the parents, because they help readers understand the couple. If we intentionally water down stories, we will be accused of being boring and irrelevant.
Mike, thank you for the support. I would appreciate hearing from you and others about the issue at hand. The conversation so far seems to be that the lawsuit warranted coverage but in a shorter story with less-prominent placement. That's an understandable position, but it gets journalists a bit nervous in terms of where to draw the line with providing information available to the public and to us.
One option we haven't discussed would be to provide a link to the PDF of the lawsuit. We could then write a shorter story and leave it to interested readers to dig deeper. Of course, that wouldn't necessarily satisfy critics who see this as unfair shot at a doctor.
ChrisYour paper did an outstanding job of providing the crucial facts in the county judge race...I wrote a blog supporting our newspapers for the good work. It was accurate and that's all I expect and want.
On another note; I read a lot of newspapers and you are the only editor that I have seen that will write a blog allowing posters to state their feelings about the decisions our newspaper makes.
You won't please everyone but I bet you already knew that.
Thought I had to say that..have a good evening.
We determined a candidate for public office merited such a story. We've covered that ground before and won't be going back over it with this topic or meeting.
Thanks for elaborating.
To summarize your position, you would advocate a brief story of the lawsuit placed on an inside page. Is that accurate?
A disproportionate part of the article was devoted to the allegation of malpractice on the part of a local professional. This calls into question the reputation of a local physician who, by the very nature of civil litigation, is limited in what she can say in her defense. Placing the article on the front page was very poor judgement. Any professional, particularly a physician, depends on their reputation as a means of earning a livelihood. Regardless of the outcome of this case, many people will remember the malpractice accusation, even if the case is resolved in favor of the physician. If this was to be noted at all in the Advocate, it merited nothing beyond a brief mention of the suit being filed and certainly not on the front page. I concur with the sentiments expressed by Dr. Vaughan in his letter to the editor. I would note that I am neither a physician nor employed in any manner in health care in Victoria.
I'm not sure what you mean. In this story, we quoted from the lawsuit and the response filed to it. The only additional information contained in the story was an explanation of the medical condition and a comment from the attorney representing the plaintiff. The attorney for the defense did not comment.How were readers unable to draw their own conclusions from this story? What in particular was not even-handed? Thank you for elaborating.
I am pleased to see this topic on the agenda for your ethics board meeting, as it needs a thorough airing-out. If you could just stick to reporting the facts, presenting both sides of an issue even-handedly, and allowing your readers to draw their own conclusions, this would never have arisen.