Identifying a Project Plan
Before the class reads Chapter 6, explain the racial and historical background of the hospital and the previous coverage. Divide the class into a manageable number of groups and instruct them to write a project proposal listing three major topics that their project would investigate. Emphasize the challenge of identifying a project proposal that will "advance the story" beyond what has already been written.
Reader Interests vs. Public Interests
Explain how Tracy Weber feared they were writing so many daily stories that the readers would be "sick of King/Drew" by the time the project team was ready to publish its five-part series.
1. Generate a discussion about how news organizations should respond when readers" interests in a subject may conflict with the journalism responsibility to decide what it needs to cover to carry out its fundamental public mission in a democratic society.
2. Discuss ways that the reporters could make the project appeal to those readers who might be "sick of the King/Drew story" without compromising journalistic standards.
1. To give the class a lesson on using statistics accurately and carefully, generate a discussion about several of the statistics that the King/Drew project team used to show that the hospital was the among worst of the worst. For example, how can you fairly compare malpractice payouts among hospitals of different sizes; among hospitals that have emergency rooms and those that do not; and hospitals that serve affluent areas and those serving inner-city areas?
2. Divide the class into groups. Assign each group one or more statistical measures (i.e., expenditures per patient, malpractice settlement amount per patient), and instruct them to report and write a story comparing two hospitals in their area or state using the assigned statistical measure.
3. Drawing primarily from bulleted items in day one and day two stories, make a list of several key statistical findings and distribute it to the class. Explain that you want them to read the statistics and then propose some reporting strategies to humanize the numbers.
Shoe-Leather Reporting: The Johnnie Mae Williams Case
1. The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate how reporters often must use ingenuity, persistence and sensitivity in finding and dealing with sources. Explain how King/Drew negligently and unnecessary performed a complete hysterectomy on patient Johnnie Mae Williams several years ago and that Tracy Weber does not know whether the hospital ever informed her about the error. Explain how Tracy Weber found the address of Johnnie Mae Williams" ex-husband and how she was fairly certain he was indeed the ex-husband. Williams has three children and Weber suspects he is the father. Go through each of the obstacles that Weber confronted at the ex-husband"s house and in the interview with Johnnie Mae Williams. At each obstacle, ask the class how they would deal with it. Although you can get as detailed as you wish, here are some suggested obstacles you can address to the class:
2. Instruct the class to pretend they get a tip that a prominent and well-respected doctor, who is the director of neuroscience, is drawing an enormous salary but working part time while officially reporting that he is working enormous hours. Assuming that the anecdote plays a very important role in a section of the story about laxity and absenteeism at the hospital, ask the class to discuss how they would try to verify the tip.
3. Discuss the value of individual case studies in stories about negligence in hospitals or in any other institution or government agency that purports to serve and protect the health, welfare and environment of the public.
4. Brainstorm ways reporters can identify former patients who were mistreated at a hospital.