Ethical news director quits over hospital deal for fake TV health news

Gary Schwitzer is founder and publisher of  He tweets as @garyschwitzer.

Although I said I was on a blog break until January 22 because I’m on vacation and should be out on the beach, when I read about this, I had to share it with those who may not have seen it.

An Eau Claire, Wisconsin newspaper reports the following:

“One year after being hired as WEAU TV-13 news director, Glen Mabie has resigned because of a disagreement with station management regarding coverage of medical topics.

According to Mabie and other sources close to the situation, station management attempted in recent weeks to negotiate a deal with Sacred Heart Hospital in which TV-13 would run medical stories featuring personnel from that hospital and its affiliates but not employees of other Chippewa Valley hospitals or clinics.

That didn’t sit well with Mabie, who said an exclusive deal with Sacred Heart posed an obvious conflict of interest that called the newsroom’s objectivity into question. Mabie said he was unsure whether the hospital would pay TV-13 as part of the agreement.

“My problem with this is it was going to dictate newsroom content,” said Mabie, whose last day at TV-13 was Friday. “I told myself that I could not with a clear conscience go into that newsroom and tell the staff that this was a good thing.”

If this went down as the newspaper reports, my hat goes off to Glen Mabie, the only news executive I’ve heard of in this country who spoke up and stood up against this very common practice. Health news is being sold to the highest bidder in many communities.

In the past, I’ve blogged about this practice and how widespread it is. How and why the Radio-Television News Directors Association – whose code of ethics clearly addresses such practices – fails to address this directly and openly should be a source of embarrassment to that organization.

And to all other station managers and news executives who – unlike Glen Mabie in little Eau Claire, Wisconsin – have looked the other way and allowed this practice to continue, shame on you. Viewers of these stations should turn away from your “product” and never come back.

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