A Multimedia Analysis:

Clash in the Name of Care

Clash in the Name of Care doctor-1461912000fcn, published October 25, 2015, is a Globe Spotlight project created by Jenn AbelsonJonathan SaltzmanLiz Kowalczyk and editor Scott Allen.

The topic of this hard-hitting expose’ is surgery policies, focusing on Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital in particular.

The teaser before the report introduces the subject with “Is it right or safe for surgeons to run two operations at once?” This question lays a foundation for the investigation to follow. We, or loved ones will face surgery at some point making this story of great interest.

The lead is an anecdote about a busy, unnamed surgeon.  The narrative begins by looking at the practice of concurrent surgeries, such as the unnamed doctor had scheduled that day.  Another surgeon, Dennis Burkey is concerned about the practice, believing it compromises patient care and sets out to change policy.

Several types of multimedia are featured in the investigation.  A single handful of photos put a face to the names of patients, and give a sense of place. Seeing Tony Meng in an electric wheelchair after elective surgery is a concrete example of why the good Dr. Burke battles on.

A powerful picture of irony in MGH patient care is a staff publication cover that reads, “One Patient at a Time.”

Several infographics, including one animated, provide understanding of how concurrent surgeries look on a timeline. Another visual combines a photo with overlaid graphics that illustrate layer by layer the scar, bone, spinal cord and hole that left Mr. Meng a paralytic. These provide information in a way that text alone cannot.

Videos make the story come alive, particularly one featuring Red Sox pitcher Bobby Jenks whose surgery interrupted his career, most likely forever. Hearing his experience helps makes Dr. Burke’s fight our fight. Another video is of an elderly patient, who could be anyone’s grandmother. We hear her say with strong feeling it is unthinkable for a surgeon to leave during a surgery to work on another patient.

There are over 100 quotes, and reading them clearly reveals where characters stand in the battle. More credibility and understanding of the war being waged to change policy comes from visuals of real staff email text with hyperlinks to more.

This serious 12,586 article is arranged in short paragraphs without subheadings or bullets making it difficult to scan. Chunks of text are broken up by multimedia that provide the “gist” of the story.  A helpful component half way through is boxes around names of key people who open up to another box revealing the person’s professional title and position helping the audience keep characters straight.

As for story elements, patients’ experiences provide rising action while Dr. Burke continues to seek change in policies.  A crisis occurs when Dr. Burke meets with hospital officials and ends up losing practicing privileges at MGH. His resolve to continue the fight at state and federal levels provides falling action and the story wraps up leaving the audience with hope that policies may one day change.

This multimedia investigative report is accurate, concise and fair, providing a compelling experience of the story and effectively informing its well-educated audience, who are 120 percent more likely than the market average to have postgraduate degrees.  However, as a college sophomore, I would like to have seen some subtitles and headings throughout so that the article could be quickly skimmed and enjoyed by still-in-college media “snackers” such as myself.



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