I had the pleasure of meeting with the entire editorial board of The Dominion Post last week. I love the commitment of each of them individually and as a group to support a better and one West Virginia.
In addition to the healthcare assets of the state working together, it is vitally important that we are also in synch with our state’s media. This is not to say that we should not receive fair criticism when deserved or that everything we do will be right, but after all, we are fighting for the same cause – integrity, transparency, service, purpose, and a better West Virginia.
Inherent to any purpose-driven approach is the need to have checks and balances. In our country’s constitution, we have a checks and balances system, thanks to executive, judicial, and legislative branches. I propose that we have these balances in our state’s healthcare concerns, too – providers, patients, government, and payers.
I submit that the media is another one of the checks and balances to protect the public, to open a debate about the merits of one action versus another, and to tell the stories of the people involved, the plan to be followed, and the outcomes.
Roone Arledge, creator of ABC’s famous Wide World of Sports, changed television broadcasting when he identified that no matter how tangential a sporting event was to a mainstream crowd, telling the stories of the athletes involved got the viewers to both watch and to care.
This approach revolutionized television news reporting, and this approach of telling the stories of the people involved has changed broadcast journalism.
In their book Made to Stick, the Heath brothers suggest that stories are sticky, or easy to remember. By relaying information in the format of a story, people remember, understand, and respond.
I think this is the role of great newspapers and media outlets that provide the framework for communication – understanding and facilitating a personal stake in the issues of the day.
While some media outlets focus on the sensational to sell papers, magazines, channels, etc., I got the feeling from the DP that this editorial board stood for the cause of good for the state of West Virginia. I have to say, I like to think my detector for this kind of thing was been tuned long ago by my dad, the late Don Marsh, who stood for public good as the editor of The Charleston Gazette.
I am proud to be back in West Virginia, and although I hope that the work we do is worthy of communication by the DP and other media sources, I also know that we will not be perfect. We will focus on the risk of omission (that is, doing things that are important), as opposed the risk of making mistakes.
I hope we are brave enough to freely admit when we are wrong, learn from it, and continue to focus on tangibly improving the health of West Virginia’s citizens – elevating their lives and bringing together one West Virginia.
At the same time, I know that responsible reporters at the DP will make sure we are on our game and create the important checks and balances that will serve our citizens well.
Roone Arledge would approve, and so would my dad.