The Herald faced criticism from St. Vincent Health (SVH) this week for not reporting on “good news” about the hospital over the last several months.
For example, SVH leadership was disappointed that we did not feature a recent media release about an award the hospital received in early February from Press Ganey, a health care performance improvement company, which recognized SVH staff for fostering positive patient experiences in 2022.
SVH leadership also criticized the Herald’s coverage of the hospital’s “financial turnaround,” which is ongoing. They claim that we are too focused on the recently reported financial numbers, which highlight major losses for 2021 and 2022, rather than the steps the board is taking toward recovery.
Around this time last year when I was reporting for the Herald, my predecessor wrote an editorial about “spin” as it relates to news coverage. The Herald was printing controversial stories about local law enforcement and development in Twin Lakes, and one community member said those types of articles do more to divide the community than unite it. Shedding a positive light on difficult stories, they said, might restore that dynamic.
A similar conversation can be applied to our coverage of the hospital as SVH leadership is now seeking to shed a positive light on its own headlines. The Herald continues its policy of not distinguishing between good and bad news – the headlines of a given week are determined by the events of that week – but we strive for accuracy, and we are often forced to prioritize coverage of the most important stories, given our limited staff.
Since the resignation of SVH senior leadership last year, including former CEO Brett Antczak, and the news in December that the hospital nearly missed payroll, our focus at the Herald has been uncovering the reasons for this financial collapse, and we’re working tirelessly to cover the board’s every step as they attempt to rebuild the hospital. That’s what our readers want to know about, and that’s where our time will continue to be spent.
Does that mean nothing good will happen at the hospital in the meantime? Of course not. Despite recent headlines, hospital staff continue to provide an essential service in our community. We’ve printed several letters over the last few months from community members applauding SVH for their positive experiences at the hospital, and we thank those staff members for their commitment to the job.
The Herald has also celebrated positive steps the board has made toward financial recovery. We’re pleased to see that the board is implementing departmental budgets, and it seems to have done a good job identifying and cutting excess spending. We also look forward to covering the hopefully successful onboarding of a new CEO this year.
In the meantime, we will not spin our coverage of SVH by featuring “positive” media releases we cannot verify the content of or have no precedent of reporting on. SVH staff are certainly deserving of recognition and it’s a shame the hospital’s current situation is clouding their ongoing commitment to service, but the Press Ganey release is not relevant to our outstanding questions about Antczak, his conduct or the reasons for major financial losses over the last two years.
The Herald appreciates the hospital’s desire to restore the community’s trust in it, but it’s not our role to assist in that process. Information like the Press Ganey release is better suited for the hospital’s newsletter, and those interested can find it through those channels.
As always, we want to hear if we reported something inaccurate or ran an incomplete story. That feedback will inform future reporting. But there’s no such thing as balancing the good and the bad in journalism. At the end of the day, the headlines really aren’t up to us.
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