The Madison Courier’s editorial this past week — finally — about plans to move the King’s Daughters’ Hospital and Health Services out onto State Road 62 began with the words, “It’s a done deal.” That was after the hospital board voted to authorize the move that KDH president Roger Allman has been seeking for so long. It may have been a FINALIZED deal with that vote, but many in the area believe that it was a done deal as soon as the hospital purchased the tract of land on 62, some time ago. It was just a question of figuring out how to slide it past the public.
The Courier gave fair enough coverage to the public meetings held — oh, yes, there was just one held before the vote, wasn’t there? Any others held now would be facing a fait accompli, although more had been promised. As I said, our local newspaper gave good coverage to that meeting. But some aggressive investigative reporting about the hospital situation would have been very much in order — WELL BEFORE the vote that surprised no one was taken. The Courier never has been strong on proactive, investigative journalism. And I’ll be the first to admit that when I was a reporter there, that wasn’t my forte, either. I take responsibility for my own failings. But the Courier dropped the ball on this issue; it could have been out front, showing some leadership to the people who want KDH to stay in the downtown — and it didn’t.
Reporter Pat Whitney did an excellent job of interviewing several local officials and reporting on their reaction to the vote — AFTER it had been taken. Their reaction was uniformly negative. Conducting those interviews weeks before (the issue didn’t just suddenly crawl out of the woodwork last week) might have sent a message to KDH about their plans. But nothing appeared in the Courier in time to put any community pressure on KDH officials.
I was pleased, however, to see that the Courier did a good follow-up story, with vintage photo of the hospital, on the strong possibility that KDH cannot legally move the hospital to the hilltop without losing possession of at least part of the sprawling tracts of land it has bought over the years in the north side of downtown. Drusilla Tripp’s letter to the board, and to the newspaper, about that provision in her great-great-grandmother Drusilla Cravens’ bequest of the original property came too late to affect the vote. But it could be a wedge those opposed to the move and willing to act on that opposition can use to take legal action to try to block the hospital’s plans to largely vacate the downtown.
It was also good to see that Pat Bersch, a member of the King’s Daughters and former board member, wrote a letter to the editor of the Courier, stating her opposition to the move. It was an excellent letter from one who should know. Several other local people also wrote letters of opposition, and a much longer letter from a professional in the field, with Madison roots, was published by the Courier as a top-of-the-editorial-page article. All to the Courier’s credit for giving publicity to those voices protesting KDH’s abandonment of the downtown.
But still, the old town expected more of a newspaper which points with pride to its 171 years of serving the community. The Courier didn’t step up editorially and investigatively as it should have. And that’s sad.
Old Corporal <firstname.lastname@example.org>