Sunday, December 6, 2009

Carilion: An Opportunity To Explain

Carilion Clinic, which has faced a daunting amount of negative coverage of its every move from both local and national newspapers during the past two years takes a small opportunity Thursday to try to explain its approach with the media.

I have contended for some time that Carilion is not nearly assertive enough in telling its story--or that the newspapers aren't listening. I'm not sure which, but Eric Earnhart, the director of media and community relations and a former television newsman, will talk to the Blue Ridge Public Relations Society of America luncheon at noon at the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center. Cost is $22 for members and $30 for nonmembers and students.

You can call 342-0411 or visit here to make reservations.

I have not envied Eric his job with newspapers playing "gotcha" with every move Carilion makes and playing even the most inconsequential stories (niggling and even routine safety violations, for example) above the fold, Page 1 with writing that accuses, rather than reports. I am not and never have been a big corporate defender (I grew up in newspapers and like most of my colleagues have a strong distrust of large organizations), but the more I see of the Carilion coverage, the more I understand why people accuse newspapers of slanted coverage.

Since I reported a little over a week ago that Carilion has no interest in buying or occupying the Burkholder property at the Riverside Center, a Roanoke daily newspaper has written three different stories, first reporting Cairlion's assertion (after ignoring it for years), then trying like hell to debunk it. An e-mail to the Housing Authority telling it that Carilion might like to put a road on the property (which it put somewhere else) if the case is ever settled is the latest hard evidence of corporate bad-boy activity. Eric is the only Carilion official directly quoted--as he most often is. The story fairly screams, "Aha! This time we've nailed you bastards!" The reporting on the story is quite good: thorough and with the use of the press's power to get to public documents. The structure and writing, however, leave you absolutely no doubt where the paper stands in this.

I have found that the upper level executives at Carilion are approachable, knowledgeable about what goes on, willing to talk about it and open and detailed in their revelations. Eric is smart, but he is not the guy steering the ship. I am eager to hear what he has to say. My guess is that this PRSA talk will draw well.


  1. Looks to me that the Roanoke Times has performed some expert journalism in hunting down the emails that PROVE Carilion lied about their interest in the "B and B" land.
    Dan, is the money from Carilion worth sacrificing your sinking credibility?
    Mrs. Vijeh Hardy

  2. Mr. Hardy: I agree the RT did some good digging, but I don't think the e-mail prove anything except that Carilion was interested in what was happening with the land next door to its facilities. I would have been interested, too. Wouldn't you? As I've said, my interest here has nothing to do with money and my guess is that anybody who questions the local daily would have no credibility with you, in any case. You seem consistent in that, anyway. What is your interest in the powerful corporate monolith (owned by outside interests) on Campbell Ave.? Is it monetary? Dan

  3. I am no fan of the Roanoke Times. For fear of retribution, they have yet to fully expose the huge financial conflicts of the Carilion boardmembers.
    A curious journalist would wonder why a "not for profit", charity hospital would have boardmembers getting rich off their association with the hospital. Take a close look at the no bid contracts with Jay Turner, the hotel deal for Warner Dallhouse, the development deals with Alexander Boone and the grants to Vic Iannello.
    These payoffs to boardmembers are a disgrace to this community. How can you confiscate homes from patient's and then turn around and hand out the money to these rich boardmembers? Carilion boardmembers should eliminate any and all financial dependence on Carilion or resign from the board. There are plenty of intelligent and responsible citizens willing to serve on the Carilion board without the pressure of financial conflicts.
    Only when these conflicts are eliminated can the community have faith that Carilion is working on our behalf. And Dan, having read you for years, if you were not would feel the same way.
    MRS.!!!! Vijeh Hardy

  4. Mrs. Hardy, I have no idea what my conflict would be. It certainly is not monetary, as you continue to imply. The group you belong to has been a loud and dominant voice in what has become a one-sided campaign against some truly fine people. I know most of the players here and I would never suggest--as you do--that any of them is a crook. I know otherwise. They are some of the finest of us and they are not, as you suggest, throwing widows and orphans into the snow. They are trying to help get well and trying desperately and against overwhelming odds to make the cost of health care affordable. The clinic model lends itself to that end.