Thursday, December 03, 2009
Rat story demonstrates need for professional journalism
by Larry Geller
I have to reiterate an argument I’ve made before—there is no substitute for experienced journalists to bring forward critical news. Dan Nakaso (Advertiser) and Andrew Pereira (KHON) both did a fine job in amplifying my little video into impactful news stories.
Because of their efforts we might see some change.
For example, in the course of researching his story, Pereira dug into the effect of Governor Lingle’s budget cuts on the ability of Department of Health inspectors to do their jobs:
Sanitation Branch Director Rex Mitsunaga told Khon2 inspectors used to visit food establishments at night, especially in Chinatown, but budget cuts and a staff of only ten inspectors on Oahu has limited that ability.
“I’ve been asking for more funding for years,” said Mitsunaga. The Sanitation Branch has 26 inspectors statewide but two of those positions are currently vacant.
Dan Nakaso called me first on this story, and was able to invest the time necessary to do his interviews and develop a complete page-one story. He also uncovered a more serious cut—the entire vector control unit is to be eliminated:
But they do worry about cutbacks to the Health Department's vector control unit. The entire unit, which helps homeowners and businesses eradicate rodent, mosquito, fly and other pest problems, will be eliminated next month as a result of budget cuts.
It's all happening as more and more of Chinatown's rats are moving inside to escape winter rains, as typically occurs every year.
To me, it’s inconceivable that this unit is to be wiped out and as a result the rats will live on. What was Lingle thinking?
Nakaso also got reaction from lawmakers, and in doing so, brought the issue to their attention in a way that no blog article could match. Thank you, Dan!
The public needs to have professional journalists on the beat. Most bloggers can’t afford to put in the time needed to produce stories such as these, and of course blogs don’t have the ability to reach the general public that print and TV news have.
For me, blogging is a labor of love (I am, of course, open to changing that). This rat story demonstrates that there is a synergy between traditional and new media that can work for the public interest.
What was Linda Lingle thinking? She is not thinking about her current residence that is for sure. I have seen disease caused by rat feces first hand, and will bet that many people, especially non insured, will be admitted to the emergency rooms with respiratory problems or kidney failure and not even linked to rats. India had several severe outbreaks of Hunta virus, so now it is just a matter of time. Closing this department is just as bad as closing schools on Fridays.
I found your website because of this story, and want to thank you for taking the time to post and bring things to light.
Thank you very much.
Larry, do you have an email address? Please, do you have a number where I can reach you? I'm a former Inspector at Vector Control. My position was abolished last November 13, 2009. I really love my job, especially helping the public about controlling all these disease-carrying pests. Now what? Vector Control is gone. We were only six inspectors handling all the complaints, service requests and demolition inspections in the entire island of Oahu before but we were able to do what our job had called for. I don't know how Sanitation Branch operates. But did I read it right that they have 24 inspectors for Oahu?
Yes, you can reach me at larry (a)(t) disappearednews (dot)com. May I also suggest getting hold of one or more of the reporters of your choice? This story is bigger than just one little blog now. Of course, I would appreciate anything you can send my way, and thank you.