06 April 2009

Spin doctor: heal thyself

Danny Williams is miffed that Eastern Health issued a news release Friday that included information that 38 more people had been identified who should have had their cancer screening tests redone.

Well, miffed is not the right word. He’s pissed off.

To quote the Premier:

"It's disgraceful. They should be shot over there."

Now that’s bad enough.

Just imagine just for a second if someone – in an authentic and understandable rage - had used those very words to described, for argument’s sake, the inactions of ministers or other officials a wee bit closer to the Premier’s heart than the bureaucrats at Eastern Health.

Okay, that’s a fairly obvious bit of Danny Williams’ favourite standard: the double one. He’s also practicing his other art: spin doctoring.

Then he added this bit:

"This is about people's lives … They have a right to be told," Williams said. "They have a right to be told in a proper manner. There has to be proper disclosure; there has to be someone there to answer questions. It's not something you do at the tail end of a Friday afternoon."

He’s right about that much.

And he’s right that the crucial bit of hard news ought not to have been buried in a news release that, as it would seem, was deliberate structured in all respects to obscure the kernel of news that directly affected people’s lives.

But to be perfectly frank, on a go backwards basis, it’s not like a whole raft of people much closer to the Premier’s political and administrative heart than the Eastern Health crew haven’t done exactly the same thing at least once before.

The culprits: Jerome Kennedy and the crew in government comms.

The incident: the risk of identity theft, not to forget potential disclosure of the details of medical records over the Internet.

The time: January 2008.

The news release: hard news buried at paragraph seven of an 11 paragraph news release.

Can we really fault people for following the examples offered by the tone at the top?

Say it ain't so update: The irrepressible fountain of uncomfortable truths, otherwise known as labradore, has compiled the Chronicles of Ridicule, that is, the litany of examples of the current administration releasing information late on a Friday or at other odd times when no one is available to comment.

He missed a couple on Equalization within the last six months, of course, but that's for another time.