...don't even ignore 'em.
-- Samuel Goldwyn

Thursday, October 19, 2006


The Seattle Times has been investigating court secrecy in the Seattle area. Today's paper (and site) leads with this account of how a court commissioner sealed the records of a potentially significant and novel lawsuit -- the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer sued prestigious Virginia Mason Medical Center for failing to advise her to have ovarian surgery in light of her family's history of cancer, and "decades" of medical literature about genetic risk. She died at 42. That was five years ago. The court commissioner sealed the record and the settlement prevented the publishing of medical journal articles about it.

Of all the media companies chattering away in this major health sciences center, only the Seattle Times has investigated the local health industry. Or the courts, for that matter. Even our "best" TV station news operation, KING-TV, wins "awards" for mere litigation-safe muckraking, and devotes great chunks of its newscasts to "HealthLink" features sponsored in sweetheart advertising endorsement deals by the healthcare establishment institutions they frequently cover. KING's news department just got an Edward R. Murrow Award for "general excellence." Sure, they're "generally excellent." Unfortunately, Murrow Awards are doled out by the Radio and Television News Directors Association (RTNDA), with the help, presumably, of their news consultants, so they have little meaning -- there are only so many news directors to choose from for the award, and the truly excellent local TV journalism operations can be counted on fewer fingers every year. Getting the Murrow can't mean much to the good KING staffers, when KIRO-TV, the city's second cheesiest operation, got one. It's all grist for those incessant news promo spots, anyway.

In our current poisonous political and public affairs atmosphere, we need more truth-telling. We have more than enough entertainment. They say the newspaper business is in trouble. I'm rooting for it to thrive.

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