Other voices? Dayton Daily news protects readers from sacred cow slaughter

When Nick Hrkman took over the opinion pages I had high hopes for an improvement in the content. I was hoping to see better content. Instead, the mediocre Ray Marcano boots the excellent Thomas Suddes to Monday, and we see more even more “group think panels” presented… by the same folks we always hear from.

“Other Voices” is supposed to be about giving a platform to people the community might not normally hear from, and hopefully with substance. Not columns hawking their non-profit, or telling us how wonderful having a dog is. (I’m not linking to these stories- because the DDn isn’t deserving of the backlinks).

Readers of this blog, know, that I have to get arrested or lose an election to have my name in the paper. And, no matter what, if the story breaks on Esrati.com, it is never given credit in the paper. Never.

The last time I had anything published, was a puff piece about growing up at the ice rink, trying to sway Kettering to build a double rink, instead of just updating the one they have. That was a long time ago. May 14, 2015 to be exact.

I’ve had a website called Keep Sinclair Fair up since 2013. You’d think, come Sinclair levy time, they’d mention the only opposition to Sinclairs ridiculous funding at the expense of Montgomery County taxpayers. The straw that broke the camels back was the building of a Warren County campus- claiming none of our tax dollars supported it.

Never a mention. Sinclair, a major advertiser in the Dayton Daily, gets the kid glove treatment.

So, when the announcement was made to start a 2yr BSN course, I questioned why any resources were being used to compete with Wright State’s BSN program, or Miami’s– or as I learned soon after, UD also has a BSN program.

I had posted about this on Dec 1, 2022.

Since the DDn claims to never read my blog, I wrote a different version and submitted it to “other voices”. I specifically cited real people who’ve been denied access to the RN program. I surveyed friends who are nurses. I put together a cogent piece (which will be at the end of this post), that explained why our tax dollars should be used to expand the 2 year RN program, not subsidize advanced training for Premier Health (Kettering Health has their own nursing program in house) and Children’s.

Our community is facing a severe shortage of RNs for nursing homes, home health and even schools, where teachers and administrators have to try to keep students and faculty safe through a pandemic.

Hrkman sent me a very polite, rejection email, after I questioned him why it hadn’t run yet, and a piece about puppies was more important. I then forwarded his BS to a nurse with 40 years experience- who replied:

Thanks for trying. 
Reporters always want to hear from nurses, but they won’t protect our identity as sources. If the reporter actually knows me in real life, and has no reason to doubt my credibility, then they should be able to provide me the cover to speak on topics that will otherwise get us fired.  That’s the way I thought it worked. Haven’t reporters gone to jail for refusing to reveal their sources?   Maybe that’s only in the movies. 

private e-mail from source.

But wait, there’s more, in his condescending response, he questions my approach of making multiple arguments against this program. In a legal brief, it’s considered best practices if you cite as many cases as possible. In Nick’s newspaper, you have to keep it very simple, because he doesn’t think that his readers can understand that Sinclair is basically an unchecked giant slush fund built with our tax dollars – that are spent on everything but the faculty (a large percentage of which are only adjuncts) or making sure that minorities, especially Black males, graduate.

The fact that there is any waitlist at all to get into the RN program, while RN jobs are in such high demand that my AirBnB’s are often filled with very high paid “travel nurses” because of the acute shortage (one of my firsthand points of reference).

Nick’s response:

I just heard back from our education reporter and was working on a response for you. We will have to pass on your submission, but I’d like to explain why.

First, we don’t believe the waitlist situation is as dire as claimed. We found that Sinclair has recently increased program capacity and that the current wait time is roughly 1-2 semesters, dramatically lower than it has been in the past, when it had been closer to 3-4 years. If the thrust of the piece is that this BSN program creates or contributes to a bottleneck of RNs, we don’t think that’s substantiated. It does not appear that the diverted resources are creating an undue burden on the existing RN program.

Second, the column is unfocused. Your critiques are wide-ranging: Sinclair shouldn’t be diverting resources to a BSN program; Sinclair shouldn’t be investing resources outside of the county; Sinclair shouldn’t be competing with existing 4-year programs at other universities; the certification/accreditation industry is contributing to a shortage of nursing staff; the health networks operate as a duopoly in our region and don’t pay taxes. Any one of these critiques could fill the space of a contributed column and then some, but you are packing too much into too small of a space to do any of them credit.

Third, we aim for our contributed pieces to come from those affected by or close to the topic being discussed. A question we ask: Why is this the person to tackle this topic? You explained to me over the phone that you heard through nurse/healthcare tenants about this situation. A piece on this topic would be much more meaningful if it were coming from one of them, for example, or at the very least didn’t rely on an amalgamation of three hypothetical people to illustrate the problem.

I appreciate you taking the time to submit to us and for your patience as we reviewed the submission. We’ve decided to pass on it, but that does not mean you can’t submit on a different topic. I would be happy to work with you to come up with a topic that will work for our Ideas & Voices section. We have developed a rubric for contributed columns that I will attempt to make more clear in an upcoming Sunday package. To briefly summarize, we are looking for opinion pieces that: 

  1. Identify a problem in our communities that is substantiated by existing reporting (we don’t report news from this section). The more focused on a single, local issue, the better.
  2. Explain the urgency or need to address this problem and how both the contributor and reader is affected by it.
  3. Propose a solution or solutions to the identified problem.
  4. Lay out clear action steps that allows our audiences to be a part of that solution. Volunteering, donating, voting, etc. The more concrete and accomplishable for the average reader, the better.

You have no shortage of identified problems and their solutions, David. My inbox is always open.

 Thank you,

Nick H.

Hrkman response via email 12/15/22, 3:32 PM

Well, Nick, you want me to identify a problem in our community substantiated by existing reporting is your first problem. The Dayton Daily news is almost incapable of reporting on half the corruption in the community. For instance, zero coverage of my lawsuit against the Board of Elections, or my Federal case seeking the release of the Nan Whaley tapes that were played to the grand jury in the “culture of corruption” case. And, when I first report on “Hoodie Gate” at Dayton Public Schools, and you run a story about it a week later– the fact that your paper doesn’t give credit for the story appearing on Esrati.com first.

I’m about to publish another story about a lawsuit that’s interesting- does that mean I can’t write an “other voices” about it in your paper until you report it?

I thought I made it very clear that there is an emergency in our community, the shortage of RN’s right now. That any resources diverted to an unnecessary higher degree, are resources that aren’t being deployed right now- to fill a critical need.

My solution was to focus all those resources on the RN program.

Of course, the fact that Premier and Sinclair are major advertisers, power players, and capable of doing no harm according to all those on their gravy train, means they are untouchable.

And, the fact that I just got 100,000 votes in a congressional race, with less than $40K to spend, fighting my own party, and in a gerrymandered district- should say, I have a voice that is worth hearing- more so than Nick’s or Ray Marcano’s – so that taxpayers know how and where their tax dollars are being wasted and by whom.

Here’s the piece he rejected.

Reading the news isn’t enough

The story sounds wonderful. Sinclair Community College is expanding its nursing education to include a 4-year Bachelor of Nursing Degree. They just renewed one of their 2 levies. We, the Montgomery County taxpayers, have been subsidizing Sinclair’s “low cost” degrees for over half a century. There is an acute shortage of nurses, this must be a good thing, right?

Meet Jacob. He’s not actually 1 person, but three rolled up into one, two named Jacob and one named Alexis. All three, want to be in nursing. Unfortunately, Sinclair’s 2-year nursing program is backed up, with a waiting period for enrollment.

Jacob 1 is currently an STNA (State Tested Nursing Aide) and on the wait list. Jacob 2, was in a 4 year nursing program at Xavier, but dropped out, partially because of the cost. Alexis is a phlebotomist, currently cleaning houses, while she works on getting a nursing degree from Fortis College, where she’s accumulating a ton of debt, but only paying $50 a month now. All three, Montgomery County residents, would love a low cost 2-year nursing degree from Sinclair, but… the wait list.

Now, instead of devoting increased resources to the 2-year RN program, Sinclair is going to provide a BSN program, an additional 2 year program for those who already have a 2 year RN. Yes, while there is an acute shortage of RN’s, they are going to start competing with Wright State and Miami and a ton of available online BSN programs. 

The question is why?

Is it to solve the nursing shortage? The shortage that has nursing homes struggling to keep staffed for the welfare of their residents round the clock? Or, is it something else? Like corporate welfare?

For those of you who don’t understand the difference between a RN and a BSN, let’s be clear, when you get wheeled into the emergency room with a life-threatening injury, what’s important isn’t the number of years of school- but, the number of years of experience on the job. However, our education industry and our “certification industry” both believe that an extra 2 years of classes makes patient outcome improve. Or could it just be that every BSN just has 2 extra years of experience?

A good friend was on her way to medical school when she ran out of money before her senior year of college. She switched to a 2-year nursing program run by a local hospital (yes, hospitals used to train their own nurses- with on the job training, like an apprenticeship) and then, went back to school to finish her undergrad in biology. She had 5 years of school by that point, but only an RN next to her name. She then went on to get a graduate degree in anatomy and was still only an RN. Would you think that someone who has a 2-yr RN plus the equivalent of the first 6 years of medical school would be more qualified than a BSN? Absolutely.

Yet, our local hospitals want to be able to pass accreditation with more BSN’s on their staff and force RN’s to take more classes to work up the corporate ladder- this isn’t necessarily about quality of care at all.

Now, the hospitals, who have a duopoly in Dayton, and already don’t pay property taxes to support Sinclair, want the taxpayers of Montgomery County to subsidize their employee training program, diverting critical resources from training the needed RN’s.

At some point, someone has to say no to Sinclair. And if you understand this argument, I’d hope you join me in asking Sinclair to reconsider the use of our tax dollars to subsidize the hospitals.

This, apparently, needs to be submitted by anyone but me. Nevermind our tax dollars are being squandered, it just can’t be me who talks about it.

Nick wants to make sure you have a puppy, or someone’s non-profit gets a plug. Or, that anyone else gets to pipe in about an issue in our community.

Hey, here’s one- your newspaper is on life support, other than articles by Tom Archdeacon, there isn’t much worth paying for. You can’t write anything bad about the people who advertise, or anything good about people who do what you do- with less resources and very little funding (thanks to the few of you who donated after the “hoodiegate” article came out.

But, wait, there’s more, in the next few weeks, I’ll tell my loyal readers about how the Montgomery County Educational Service Center is being used as another slush fund, how a certain disgraced politician changed his name after being sued for millions, and maybe a few other things… things you’ll never read about in Nick’s newspaper.

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