Yesterday, I posted a letter to the editor from Daniel Podolsky, the president of UT Southwestern Medical Center, criticizing the newspaper’s coverage of Parkland. Today comes managing editor George Rodrigue’s response. I hope Tony Pederson over at SMU has been following along. There’s an excellent case study here in how journalism should and does get done.
I still say the paper does us a disservice in treating Parkland solely as an investigative beat. (Rodrigue points to a recent story about the hospital’s organ donation program; not sure that qualifies as providing the context that Podolsky calls for.) But the thing is, I don’t blame the paper for this. Or, rather, I empathize with the folks at the paper because I know I’d be doing the same thing if I were sitting in their newsroom. Parkland management appears to have structured the game so that it can only be played that way.
Here’s how it works: Parkland makes it harder than it ought to be for the paper to access public information (read Rodrigue’s account). The reporters and editors at the paper get pissed. Now their jobs are harder than they need be. They’re working with fewer people than they had a few years ago. The stories still need to get written. And now it looks like Parkland has something to hide. Oh, it’s on like Donkey Kong! Or sentiments to that effect.
Meanwhile, over at Parkland, now they’re getting barraged with open-records requests. That makes their job harder. Pesky reporters! And all they write is negative stuff! So they dig in their heels. And if a writer does come along with a request for interviews for a story he’s working on about the hospital’s awesome organ donor program, someone up the chain at Parkland is going to think, “Hang on. I wonder what that pesky reporter is really trying to dig up.”
See what I’m saying? We’ve got ourselves a dysfunctional relationship here. Mommy and Daddy are fighting, and we readers, taxpayers, patients, we just want to know what’s going on and if everything’s going to be okay.
Sorry. Might be projecting a little bit there.