Conflict of interest clear to all - except Free Press publisher Bob Cox

This morning, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority succeeded where even their political masters, Manitoba's NDP government, had failed.

By offering the promise of a substantial dowry-- perpetual advertising revenue -- to the Winnipeg Free Press, the beleagured WRHA 'braintrust' have miraculously bought off their harshest critic.

This deal perhaps explains why two weeks ago, the Free Press concealed the truth about the performance of the province in the national MRI wait times report, and misrepresented bench mark achievements- or lack thereof - in knee replacements.

After all, you can't very well embarass someone one week and expect them to be your business partner the next.

The broadsheet, whose publisher Bob Cox pretends that their "unique" deal to print, deliver, and sell advertising for a glossy WRHA rag is not a blatant conflict of interest, decided pimping out the WRHA brand name and publishing a glossy bi-monthly "healthy living" magazine was more important than maintaining the credibility of their newsroom, and investigative reporters like Jen Skerritt.

Her coverage of the death of Brian Sinclair in an HSC waiting room, and her exclusive reports about the WRHA super-secret brown envelope slush fund, shook the untouchables at the WRHA.

Postl's characterization of her brown envelope expose as 'laughable' backfired badly - as did the claim of his chief defender, Health Minister Theresa Oswald, that Postl was being 'courageous' in his handling of the controversy.

Last month, Skerritt again used Freedom Of Information filings to verify the spread of infectious Superbugs in area hospitals. She humiliated the WRHA into changing their public disclosure policy after they insisted "this was no news".

Again the WRHA went the smear route:
WRHA spokeswoman Heidi Graham said the initial Free Press article convinced health officials of the need to publicize the occurrence of outbreaks in real time so the public doesn't have to rely on "inaccurate and sometimes inflammatory information from other sources."

The work of Jen Skerritt was no doubt the main impetus for the WRHA to silence the Free Press at any cost - a cost now borne by the taxpayer, who never expected to fund "a new source of health and wellness news and information" written by the WRHA, let alone imagine that the Free Press would profit by eagerly distributing Dr. Brian Postl - approved propaganda to their own subscribers' doorsteps.
May 4, 2009
A "Wave" of Health and Wellness is Sweeping Winnipeg
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority Launches New Consumer Health and Wellness Magazine

Manitobans have a new source of health and wellness news and information.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority announced today that it is joining forces with the Winnipeg Free Press to produce Wave, a consumer health and wellness magazine.

Dr. Brian Postl, President and CEO, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, said the new publication will provide readers with the kind of news and information they need to lead healthier, happier, and, hopefully, longer lives. It will also support the Region's ongoing effort to be accountable to the public by providing readers with a glimpse into the inner workings of the health-care system.

"Wave's mission is to engage and inform readers about a broad spectrum of health and wellness-related issues, as well as showcase some of the important and innovative work taking place in our health region," Postl said. "Our goal is to provide readers with compelling stories that illuminate and inspire, not lecture people about wise lifestyle choices. We hope we'll generate a different kind of wave in our community - a wave of enthusiasm for healthy living."

The first issue of Wave, which hits the streets this week, will feature a behind-the-scenes account of a one-year-old girl who underwent treatment for a fatal genetic disorder, a story that explains how stress can undermine a person's health and well-being, and a piece on the issues involved in diagnosing and treating prostate cancer. The magazine will also feature a series of advice columns from Region experts on topics ranging from healthy eating and active living to general health and patient safety.

The publication, which will be published six times a year, is the result of an arrangement believed to be unique in Canada. While there are other health magazines, Wave is the first health magazine of its kind resulting from a joint effort between a health region and a major newspaper. The Region will provide editorial content, while the Free Press will manage the printing, distribution and advertising sales.

"We're very excited about this project because it represents a great opportunity to build our community by providing readers with information that truly matters to them," says Bob Cox, Publisher of the Free Press.

Cox says the cost of producing Wave will be offset by advertising. "We believe a quality product of this type will be well-received by advertisers," says Cox.

Wave will be delivered to Free Press home subscribers on a rotational basis. It will also be available at newsstands, doctors' offices, McNally Robinson bookstores, hospitals, and via subscription.

Postl says the decision to partner with the Free Press only makes sense. "We are the largest provider of health services in the province, and one of the largest in the country. The Free Press, meanwhile, is one of Canada's top newspapers and has an extensive sales and distribution network in our community. By working together, and with the support of our advertisers, we can provide readers with the very best in health and wellness information in a way that is economically efficient."

For more information contact:
Brian Cole
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority Tele: (204) 926-8144

That the WRHA can justify going into the publishing business at a time when the print publication model is imploding, is explained only by the bottomless pit of our tax dollars that will underwrite their editorial "costs".

That the Free Press can fool itself into believing that their flagrant conflict of interest -- going into business with "the largest provider of health care in the province" -- will go unnoticed when readers monitor and evaluate future news and editorial coverage about the WRHA, is proof that the crisis of public trust in the newspaper that we reported on in November, was justified.

A doctor in the employ of the WRHA emailed us today:

"... You don't suppose that this partnership will affect the newpaper's objectivity when reporting on this bloated bureaucracy and the clowns that run it, do you? The Free Press' credibility just keeps getting less and less."

In the past few weeks, not only did the Freep ignore that wait times had doubled for MRI patients in this province, it redefined their standard of journalism to embrace:

- the misspelling of the name of Holocaust survivor (and longtime advertiser) Arnold Frieman, and never correcting it in print,

- inventing a new continent, Aurtarlia, and never correcting the error,

- ignoring the death of longtime Winnipeg reporter and commentator Marshall Armstrong,

- last weekends' stomach-turning exploitation of a deceased teenage girl by Gordo 'another awardo' Sinclair, replete with details of the girl witnessing her mother's suicide, lurid details of her own suicide in St. Vital, and running a file photo and naming the child -- all without an iota of evidence her father and surviving brothers had consented to their families grief being made public.

This unorthodox marriage puts their coverage of the upcoming Brian Sinclair inquest, the brown envelope audit, and spending decisions of Postl, under the microscope.

Nobody is going to believe they are reading the whole story, as long as the Free Press owners depend on the credibility of the WRHA to generate advertising support for their new joint venture.

My guess is that when it comes to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, get used to hearing the phrase "never reported in the Free Press".

Bob Cox is surely expecting you to.

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