I know that hospital webcasts have become important marketing tools.
But does a major metropolitan newspaper have to contribute free space to the marketing effort? That's what it looks like the Minneapolis Star Tribune has done, publishing a front-page story on one local hospital system's expensive webcasts. The piece reads like an ad itself. Then the newspaper's website offers a link to one of the hospital webcasts!!! Is this journalism or an "I'll scratch your back, maybe you'll advertise in our paper" approach?
The story says, "Each webcast costs between $35,000 to $50,000 -- typically paid by whoever commissions it -- to produce and promote." That's incomplete. Who pays for the kidney stone webcasts that are highlighted in the story? Whose budget does that come out of?
Here's something else troubling about such webcasts. Hospital marketing people can say they educate patients, but what is the quality of that education? Is there a discussion of harms and benefits? Is there a discussion of costs? Is there a discussion of alternative options?
That's just some of what can be problematic about this marketing trend. And it's a lot of what was wrong with the Star Tribune story. It failed to ask tough questions and felt more like an ad than a news story.