Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bias Watch

Admittedly, I've been very sensitive to the Times-Picayune's coverage of the LSU/VA and Charity Hospital controversies. Today's article, by Bill Barrow, isn't the worst example I've ever seen but it isn't exactly a shining achievement in objective journalism either. This is how it starts:

Addressing several hundred New Orleans business and community leaders last month, representatives from the Louisiana State University System and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs spoke definitively about their plans for a $2 billion investment in a joint medical teaching facility near downtown.

VA construction manager Don Orndorff promised a new federal hospital would be opened in early 2013. Dr. Larry Hollier, chancellor of the LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, was less certain about a possible opening date for his school's portion of the project. But he was no less matter-of-fact about the imminence of a project that proponents pitch as the largest economic development undertaking in New Orleans history and a necessary linchpin in the positioning the city's medical enterprise to compete with those in Houston and Birmingham, Ala.

Now I think that's quite the lede. I'm an amateur so I don't know but it would seem to me that you'd want to start a new story by mentioning why the hospitals are in the news this week. For instance, you might want to mention that RMJM Hillier architects had come to town to testify about their alternative plan to restore Charity before the House Appropriations Committee in Baton Rouge. Or you might want to start the article mentioning the big event that occurred last night where preservationists and architects spoke to a packed house of hundreds of influential New Orleanians instead of an LSU/VA event from last month.

In fact, the Times-Picayune does not mention the VCPORA presentation anywhere in their article, which is curious given that WDSU and WWLTV considered it significant enough to merit coverage.

The Times-Picayune piece is quite long and does delve into many of the relevant details. It also includes maps and a timeline. But the manner in which those critical details got buried behind a loaded lede is indicative of the Times-Picayune's pattern of lackluster coverage of matters related to Charity and the LSU/VA redevelopment scheme.

Update: I should also mention that today's Times-Picayune also included an op-ed in support of the RMJM Hillier plan to rebuild Charity. It's by Jack Davis of Smart Growth Louisiana and it's a good read. Link


bayoustjohndavid said...

The worst paragraph, IMO:

On the surface, the dispute pits traditional opposing values. One side seeks to preserve a historic structure -- Charity was built in 1939 -- and an architecturally significant neighborhood, albeit one spotted with abandoned properties. On the other is the promise of a sterling new medical enterprise with the potential for more than 2,000 permanent direct jobs, to say nothing of the indirect economic impact.

Those elitist preservationists just don't care about people who need jobs. Because, there certainly would be hundreds of permanent jobs if the hospital opened on one side of Tulane Ave. that would be lost if the hospital opened on the other side of Tulane Ave.

E said...

word, i highlighted that paragraph too.