COMMENTARY: Blindly following the PR playbook

January 1, 2008


Dear French Hospital spokesperson:

There was a day when overstuffed suits like you could rant and rave to your favorite newspaper publisher over shrimp and crepes and have some kind of real impact on the shape of hometown news reporting.

But thanks in part to Websites like (and similar ones in more and more communities) your heretofore solitary bully pulpit now is crowded with the unwashed masses – a circumstance that goes a long way toward helping neutralize your hollow comments.

Before you and your troop of anonymous blogsters spend a lot of time reviling’s co-editor Karen Velie and the entire Website, you need to know something: We’re going to be here well after your minions have departed this scene, and we’re going to be spending our time reporting on a lot of subjects that until now have been sacred cows to this county’s media. Has your facility been such a bovine?

You claim to happily interact with “legitimate media sources” to get them “the facts.” You and I both know this is simply public relations-speak for, “We talk to reporters we can manage because they report what we want. All others are not legitimate media.” If I had a nickel for every time some bonehead bureaucrat or corporate lackey said that to me or about me, I’d have a bucketful.

Let me tell you something about professional journalists: We get kicked around by the best. It’s all part of the job. Tell me I’m factually wrong, I’ll prove my facts are right. Point out a real error, I’ll own up to it. But you seem unwilling to refute specific points made by your hospital’s own employees — and the public record — contained in the UncoveredSLO article. I expect your similar non-response to other, future articles.

And remember this little fact: In its first few days on the Web, got 52,000 hits. That’s getting down the road to legitimacy.

We’ll do lunch.

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Member Opinions:

By: Anonymous on 2/6/08

You are taking yourselves way too seriously! You quoted anonymouse sources and here you pooh-ppoh them.

Typical radical lib! You want it both ways.

Well that goose won’t fly!

We see right through your scam!

Enjoy the spotlight while you can…the bulb is growing dimmer by the article.

By: Anonymous on 2/1/08

Thanks for keeping us informed. Everything in your article can be confirmed simply by going to the sources that you identified.

I haven’t noticed anyone deny the salaies, the “other job”, the expense accounts,the loans or the fact that they reported the # of people who were not treated to the gov themselves (its not like someone else filled out thier reports for them). Keep up the GREAT INVESTIGATIONS.

By: Anonymous on 1/31/08

For a seasoned reporter, the skin seems a little thin.

None of the folks that left the ER without treatment were identified How many made any complaints to JCHCO? How many EMTLA violations has French or their staff been involved in?

This would be the info I would have before publishing a story.

I suspect it is zero and zero.

By: Anonymous on 1/31/08

Hit’s are not a measure of traffic to your site – it’s unique visitors.

By: Anonymous on 1/31/08

Simce when do “hits” equal credibility?

A popular Nazi skin head site gets over 2 million hits a month. Does that make that site credible?

You are grasping at straws. Sounds, in fact, a little desperate.

Disassociate yourselves from Congalton. Bring back good sloid credible journalism and you may succeed.

There are anonymous sorces that question the integrity of Mother Theresa. That kind of journalism will never fly with the folks of SLO county.