Rantz: Union-backed bill gets friendly, misleading media support

Feb 27, 2023, 6:00 PM | Updated: 6:17 pm
SEATTLE, WA - MAY 07: Health care workers in the acute care COVID unit at Harborview Medical Center walk down a hallway in their covid socks on May 7, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. Medical staff began tucking the pant legs of their hospital scrubs in socks as a way to prevent infection from spreading during home assessment team visits but it has now become a comedic coping strategy. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

A left-wing media outlet used a union-backed poll to push a union-backed piece of legislation to push you into offering support. You should reject this manipulative press release reporting.

KING 5’s Cornelius Hocker presented a piece titled, “49% of Washington healthcare workers say they plan to leave the profession in a few years.” A feature video accompanied the written story.

He reported that a “study,” released on Feb. 13, showed that “many healthcare workers plan to leave the profession in the coming years.” The reason? Healthcare workers are overworked and burning out, one of whom told Hocker that she could not maintain the punishing workload for much longer.

Having established healthcare staff concerns (they’re overworked!) and the clear crisis (49% will leave the profession!), Hocker pivoted to SB 5236 — a bill that just so happens to address the exact complaint highlighted in the “study” that Hocker cited. It would require the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) to regulate and enforce hospital staffing plans and minimum staffing standards.

The story quoted an unedited statement from State Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), using the poll to promote SB 5236. She argued the poll “shows why it’s so important to institute common-sense safe staffing standards to ensure that workers aren’t asked to take care of too many patients at a time.”

The entire KING 5 report should be reported to the state as an in-kind donation to Democrats and their union friends. What Hocker leaves out is alarming.

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There are so many problems with KING 5’s report

Despite Hocker’s characterization, there was no study. He’s citing a poll, which is markedly different.

KING 5 pulled the polling data from the union-supporting Washington Safe and Healthy Coalition (WSHC). Its membership comprises healthcare workers represented by SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, UFCW 3000, and the Washington State Nurses Association. Hocker does not disclose its membership nor the fact that the WSHC endorses SB 5236. The poll was conducted with the intent of supporting the legislation.

In the web piece, Hocker linked to the poll presumably to be transparent about the data. I’m grateful when media members do that and it’s something I aim to do when I report. But there’s a problem: The link takes you to a poll from 2021, not 2023. I assume this was an error. Though it’s unclear how Hocker came across this particular poll, it’s easy to see why it was mistakenly linked to. It offered virtually the same results as the new poll from 2023. And they were both conducted by the same left-wing strategy firm, GBAO.

Both polls show exactly the same percentage of healthcare workers saying they may leave the profession in the next few years (49%). That’s very odd. And in both polls, the workers cite short-staffing and workplace safety as their dissatisfaction on the job. I’m sure this is purely coincidental and not a reflection of an agenda-driven poll.

Omitting a key detail

The basis for this KING 5 story appears to be a press release by Sen. Karen Keiser, though the timeline of which came first is somewhat murky.

Hocker printed the entire statement by Keiser in his web piece (it’s not included in the video report). Traditionally, reporters pick out a relevant portion of the statement, rather than copy-and-pasting the full statement because that comes off as lazy journalism. But if you’re going to print an entire press statement unchallenged, it’s important to disclose a key piece of information that was left out.

Keiser is a sponsor of SB 5236, and her statement in response to the poll’s findings was likely coordinated with the WSHC. KING 5 didn’t disclose her sponsorship of the bill, which is clearly relevant.

This story didn’t provide you with an objective look at the legislation. I don’t care which side a viewer takes on the bill, but there should at least be a good-faith attempt to inform the audience.

One-sided, activist journalism

The report features three voices meant to get the viewer or reader to become a supporter of SB 5236. There’s not a single quote from anyone in opposition. In fact, there are only two sentences dedicated to the Washington State Hospital Association, which warns against passing the legislation.

The piece neither explained why the group was opposed nor did it include any statement from the group to explain their position. Did Hocker even reach out? You’re not served by a news piece when you’re only getting one position.

I reached out to KING 5 News Director Julie Wolfe with some specific questions about why disclosures were omitted, why old data was included, and whether or not she feels this story is balanced. She did not respond.

What is KING 5?

I obviously don’t know if Hocker intended the piece to be a press release to promote the legislation and prop up union propaganda. But it’s hard for me to believe it wasn’t intentional.

KING 5 didn’t hide its left-wing bias, yet I still get the impression that it tries to present itself as an objective news organization. They’re our local version of MSNBC (overtly partisan) but tries to portray itself as CNN (overtly partisan while claiming not to be). The end result does a disservice to the audience and the quality journalists they employ.

If KING 5 wants to be an activist news organization, they should be more open about it. There’s clearly a market for it in Seattle. I’d like to say they’re not fooling anyone when pretending to be objective, but the truth is, they are fooling people.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast. Follow @JasonRantz on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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Rantz: Union-backed bill gets friendly, misleading media support