Friday, January 18, 2008

How Not to Report a Story

A DeSoto Sun staff writer attempts to report a local hospital's staff reduction and produces the sorriest story the newspaper has run to date. The writer, John Lawhorne, simply hands the microphone, so to speak, to the suits and dutifully writes down a string of non sequiturs. Laying off five people contributes, in some strange way, to patient satisfaction. Lawhorne doesn't think to ask how that might happen. Not one word of the story makes sense.

The reporter's most profound failure is the ease with which he and his suit-source turn real people into abstractions: "five layoffs," "staff," and "positions." The word "person" is not used once. "Job" doesn't even enter the picture.

...DeSoto Memorial Hospital's Chief Executive Officer Vincent Sica said today that five layoffs at the hospital’s Center for Family Health were not related to the new $20 million hospital addition.
...Sica said five positions at DMH’s Center for Family Health had been eliminated, due to a change in the hospital’s philosophy regarding the family center. The staff reduction led to the layoffs, with the goal of increasing patient satisfaction.
...The hospital board has decided to focus on operating the center more like a doctor’s office, Sica said.
..."Originally, we would bring new physicians into the center and let them work for a couple of years to build up their patient relations. Then they would go out on their own and set up a private practice.
..."We were trying to run the center as a hybrid -- half doctor’s office and half walk-in clinic,” Sica said.

Yup, that's the entire story, beginning to end. I'm almost at a loss for words. Sun Coast Media Group must have laid off all its copy editors for this to make it through the pipeline. And shame on John Lawhorne for failing journalism so completely.

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