Monday, October 21, 2013


Does sensationalizing the news sell more papers? Does sensationalizing the news ensure that serious issues obtain the spotlight needed to embarrass actors into corrective action?

These were a few of the questions bouncing around in my head after reading a week of sensational, salacious stories and opinion pieces published in the Telegram last week concerning the Hoyles and Escasoni Long Care Treatment Facilities.

The “SpaghettiOs” scandal culminated in a column by Desk Editor, Brian Jones on Friday,  and a letter to the editor by Eastern Health CEO Vickie Kaminski, in Saturday's edition, to correct a series of “misrepresentations” regarding treatment at the facilities.

Polemic and Paradox has been fairly critical of Eastern Health over the years., however on this one, Kaminski has it right. It appears to me that The Telegram failed to provide balanced coverage in what can only be considered a case of confirmation bias.

While I laud investigative reporting that helps improve the conditions that our elderly population live in, I was genuinely disappointed with the approach the sensational approach taken by The Telegram.

I wonder if the editors considered the impact of the malicious comments on those that work at the facility and the families of patients in their care. The stories and opinion pieces did not illustrate an understanding of how care is delivered or the unique healthcare and dietary demands of the clients.

I wonder if the writers had visited the facility?  Did they carry out a a fact check to support the allegations they so sensationally reporte.  For example, the issue of baths? They know that patients are cleaned from head to toe daily, it is called a bed bath. Yet, they proceeded to paint a most disturbing mental picture of patients left for a week at a time without being bathed.

Than there is the issue of the canned spaghetti, which was blown out of proportion when emotion trumped logic.  The news report would have one believe that these patients are fed this for every meal, when in fact there is a three-week menu.  Canned spaghetti is not the result of spending cuts but an effort to ensure something is eaten when patients reject the menu items.

While it is not something I am accustomed to eating, it is certainly something that has been a staple in many a cupboard over the decades, a sort of comfort food. I have certainly seen many a person eat canned beans or spaghetti over toast, boiled bologna, Vienna Sausages or salt beef. To many elderly people removing these items, which they have enjoyed for decades, would be inhuman. It is bad enough to be removed from your home, but not to no longer have access to some of the foods you have eaten all of your life would be cruel.

The articles did a great disservice to the hundreds of empathetic people who go above and beyond to care for patient at these facilities. To characterize their care as " ghastly at best and horrific at worst." is unfair.  

This “National Inquirer” approach is not something I am accustomed to reading in The Telegram, which normally presents a balanced approach to issues of concern that stimulates discussion, and often results in positive change.

I do not mean to insult your integrity of the writers in an attempt to address a serious issue, the care of our seniors, they let sensationalism over run a logical investigative process. I am not an employee of the facility or a government spin doctor. I believe in social justice, fairness and balanced reporting.

If public or private facilities are cutting corners in the name of efficiency that detrimentally impacts the care of our seniors, we need to know about. If the lack of employees is overwhelming existing staff, we need to know about it. If those entrusted with carrying for our loved in their golden years are mistreating them, we need to know about it.

The credibility of the message is determined by the messenger.

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