Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Reporter's shameful award

Healthcare company’s
newsletter tells the story

By David Baker
First posted on June 8, 2005

The discovery that the Albany Times Union, while running dozens of ads promoting a local healthcare company, has gone at least five years without reporting on even one of the many medical malpractice lawsuits filed against the company is disturbing enough. Now there is further evidence of just how the newspaper’s management has allowed itself to be bought by Northeast Health.

It’s in a copy of one of the healthcare company’s internal newsletters. On page 5 of this document – next to a piece that boasts about the company’s current media blitz – is the following item:


“In September, Northeast Health presented Times Union writer Lyrysa Smith with the 2004 President’s Award at the Annual Chairman’s Circle and Board Member Event held at Wolfert’s Roost Country Club. The award recognizes demonstrated commitment to the community and leadership in healthcare or community services.

“Smith is an award-wining journalist with nearly 20 years experience in the media. She has worked for ABC News, PBS and the A & E Network. She has also written extensively on many important healthcare issues since she the joined the Times Union in 2001.”

Smith evidently attended what obviously was a non-public event to collect her award. What was she thinking? And how can she – or anyone at the Times Union – write anything other than glowing praise about Northeast Health when this is the nature of the relationship between the newspaper and the company?

The newsletter – “NEH Update” – is just one of several publications put out by Northeast Health’s publicity department. This company spends a huge amount of money buying political and media influence and telling everyone just how wonderful it is. So now here’s a modest suggestion for Northeast Health:

Shut down the public-relations machine. Instead, spend the money on doing whatever it takes to ensure that never again will a diabetic patient be left to die in her hospital bed for want of a simple blood-sugar test and something to eat.