An apology when a correction won’t do

Posted 6/19/19

A simple correction sets the record straight when a newspaper makes a simple mistake.

When we are supplied with evidence of an error, we print a formal correction. You’ll see one below, …

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An apology when a correction won’t do

Posted

A simple correction sets the record straight when a newspaper makes a simple mistake.

When we are supplied with evidence of an error, we print a formal correction. You’ll see one below, clarifying a paragraph we published about Washington’s derelict vessel removal program.

But a short correction notice like that isn’t enough when there are several problems in a single article and we did make several mistakes in our June 5 article about the difference between Jefferson Healthcare’s published price list and the “out-of-pocket” payments made by patients.

First, I need to apologize to you for muddying your understanding and to hospital staff who have had to answer confusing questions raised by The Leader. They didn’t deserve the headache.

When I assign a reporter to research and write an article, it’s my job to then ask the right questions so that we don’t over-simplify or mix up technical terms. I failed and The Leader made it sound like there are different charges for different patients, when good faith critics tell us there’s only one price for gallbladder removal, for instance.

The “patient responsibility” portion you pay will depend on who your insurer is. That’s an important distinction.

We also wrote that those with private insurance “pay extra” to help keep the hospital viable. It’s not that simple. As costs rise, all insurers pay more and, again, the patient share depends on the insurance policy.

In another section, we applied a general statistic about the hospital’s Medicare and Medicaid revenues to the typical reimbursements for a hip replacement. Again, sharper editing by me would have caught the way we used two distinct terms interchangeably.

Jefferson Healthcare’s CEO Mike Glenn has written a good clear letter setting us straight. I’m glad to print it and I hope it clears these matters up.

But I take issue, as he knows, with a word he casually uses: “misquote.”

The reporter in question works from a digital recorder and what appears in quotes is verbatim what people say. He interviews dozens of people each month who do not complain of his ability to faithfully repeat what they say.

With no contemporaneous notes or recordings to dispute the words inside the quotes, Mr. Glenn says there “many misquotes” when there were not.

I think Hospital District Commissioner Kees Kolff gets at the problem in a letter which we also print today: we misunderstood what he was saying. Again, had I done a better job of editing, the material around the quotes wouldn’t have misconstrued Commissioner Kolff’s meanings.

Again, my apologies to you the reader and to hospital staff whose job I made harder.

I have conducted a serious conversation with the newsroom staff and have given reporters clear guidance about how to demand my attention when they need more time or expert advice on extra-technical matters. They work hard for you and it pains me to have let them down in letting you down.

-Dean Miller

The Leader’s Editorials are the opinion of the Editorial Board: Publisher Lloyd Mullen; co-owner Louis Mullen; Editor Dean Miller and Leader readers who lobby The Leader. Each editorial is signed by the person who writes that editorial on behalf of the Editorial Board.

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Dawn mohrbacher

This is why I wouldn't do a recent interview with The Leader on a complicated international finance issue. They've misquoted and misstated MANY times in their history, Sorry the healthcare system got wrapped up in the missleader.

Monday, June 24