NVN Publisher Wagar’s Journalistic Ethics Are Substandard

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Editor,

In response to the Nisqually Valley News article dated March 20, 2015, entitled “Chiropractor Who Led Ramtha DNA Study Sanctioned for Fraud,” according to the Stipulated Finding of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Agreed Order the allegation of fraud is not true. The article is character assassination of a skilled doctor and caring, giving man.

Fraud has legal implications and is commonly understood as “dishonesty calculated for advantage.” Legal fraud is a specific offense with certain features. The definition of medical fraud is “The intentional misrepresentation or deception resulting in payments for services not rendered.”

The Chiropractic Commission concluded, “the alleged conduct fell within Practice below the Standard of Care.” This practice was related to patient documentation and billing process. It appears this conduct was related to one patient. Actions ordered by the Commission were for a two-year period and Dr. Matt Martinez was ordered to:  

• Pay a fine of $1,000.

• Take continuing education classes.

• Hire a mentor/consultant who would do a review, submit findings/recommendations to the Commission that were to be implemented within six months.

• The Department of Health could perform three unannounced record audits per year.

Dr. Martinez complied with all Orders. It is noted this Order was signed May 10, 2013. On March 20, 2015, there was less than two months to completion of the Order. For a two-year period, patient’s records/billings were scrutinized without further difficulty. The Nisqually Valley News reporting of the allegations and findings of fact appear distorted to support the alleged accusations.

On March 13, 2015, the Nisqually Valley News published an article titled “JZ Knight Claims DNA Switcheroo.” Dr. Martinez was the physician taking the DNA samples that were submitted to three independent laboratories for testing. The Nisqually Valley News article questioned and ridiculed the significant medical and scientific results. The article quoted information gathered from a plant geneticist. I wonder why the Nisqually Valley News did not search for a Board Certified medical geneticist. A simple web search found six Board Certified Medical Geneticists at the University of Washington.

The article labeling Dr. Martinez a “fraud” was written one week later on March 20. The articles appear to be designed to demean and discredit Dr. Martinez due to his involvement with the DNA testing. On March 27, the Nisqually Valley News’ “Question of the Week” was related to Dr. Martinez’s credibility. I cannot recall any individual who was presented by the Nisqually Valley News in this manner for public judgement/condemnation.

The Society of Professional Journalism Code of Ethics states: “Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. The journalist should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

“Journalist should: Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources when possible.

“Remember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.

“Support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.

“Never deliberately distort facts or context, including visual information.

“Ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues, and members of the public as human beings deserving respect.”

The above standards appear to have been applied by Nisqually Valley News Publisher Michael Wagar in a Nisqually Valley News article on March 27, 2015, regarding a Rainier School District lawsuit. In the March 27, 2015, Publisher’s Column titled “Lawsuit Allegations Tell Only One Side of the Story,” Mr. Wagar spoke of the Rainier lawsuit article. He pointed out that “anyone can file a lawsuit” and that “this is still an emerging story” and “the Nisqually Valley News will follow this lawsuit to its conclusion, no matter the results.”  Unfortunately, it appears the same standards were not afforded in the article on Dr. Martinez.

Linda Barnes

Yelm

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