February 17, Global’s News Hour showed an example of how real reporting gives way to messaging with another purpose. Brian Coxford, who usually handles the infomercials within Global’s newscasts, spent moments near the top of the show selling a $600 million plan to renovate St. Paul’s Hospital.
Coxford was assisted by Neil McConnell, St. Paul’s Head of Renewal, and Bonita Elliott, VP Clinical Program. They were pleased to show aging portions of the building, including an easily repaired bit of broken plaster which is left as a photo op to display “serious decay.”
An Intensive Care Unit of four beds was shown, a common configuration in North America. The commentary talks about overcrowding and implies there is insufficient room for each patient to be “on his own critical care equipment.” In truth, ICU nurses have whatever equipment they need. Patients are not sharing monitors, respirators and other devices designed for single users.
Coxford showed the emergency power system which is appropriately configured to provide critical, desirable and non-essential routings for back up electricity. That too is typical of hospitals but Coxford implied it was inadequate. An electrical engineer would be uncomfortable if they had not prioritized emergency power, an emergency service required in hospitals by building code.
So as not to make current patients too nervous, Coxford asserted that critical care, emergency, operating rooms, acute care and ambulatory care at St. Paul’s match any hospital in BC. Now, I’m not overly bright but even I can tell that Coxford related conflicting stories. If Lions Gate matches any hospital in the province on that list of services, there is not much left in its mandate.
St. Paul’s has no excuse for not maintaining its physical plant or replacing vital mechanicals. What it cannot create within its space though is the comfort level desired by people who work there. It is clear that offices and some patient service areas like lounges and waiting rooms are inadequate. But Global didn’t mention that at all. Better offices and lounges do not convince taxpayers that needs are urgent.
This style of report is usually part of a commercial arrangement between Global and the subject of the informercial. The client has an objective – in this case gaining public support for $600 million funding – and Global serves it up in its newscast as part of services to clients.
Keep an eye on so-called feature reports. They are usually included with an objective different than sharing hard news. One day, we might see the comfortable high-tech facilities of a private healthcare provider. Another day will feature a private power producer showing an ultra modern control room but none of the diversion tunnels, dams, pipes, roadways and dry creek beds.
This practice does corrupt news reporting though. Lines have grown indistinct as to what is reporting in the public interest and what is designed to promote commercial interests.