Send News Reporters Hot Tips on California Government Officials Failing to Protect Elder Abuse Victims

 

 CBS News correspondent Lesley Stahl on corruption of public officials by lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Lesley Stahl, CBS News correspondent for CBS’ weekly television news magazine 60 Minutes, in the public domain. (Photo credit: U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Cohen A. Young, September 18, 2008, cropped from original photo available online)

You may be wasting your time contacting mainstream news reporters in California and elsewhere in the U.S.

If you are thinking about contacting mainstream news reporters with your stories and evidence regarding California government agencies that fail to protect vulnerable elder abuse victims, feel free to do so. But Elder Abuse Exposed.com feels duty bound to warn you that you may be wasting your time by turning to the news media in your quest for justice and accountability for the wrongful conduct that has harmed you and your loved ones. You also may be setting yourself up to feel even more isolated and powerless about your grievances. And to make matters worse, you may feel disappointed yet again in a time of need by what many view as a “fourth branch of government,” i.e., the news media, which are supposedly a watchdog of the activities of the other three branches of government.

Our experience is that news reporters in California and throughout the United States, including so-called investigative journalists, usually do not aggressively investigate and expose corruption by government officials responsible for protecting elder abuse victims. For many years, Elder Abuse Exposed.com members and network of associated members have sent countless mainstream, and even alternative, news reporters and editors in California (e.g., the Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, LA Weekly, etc.) incontrovertible evidence of California government agencies’ complicity in covering up elder abuse. On many occasions, the indisputable evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt that both lower-level and upper-level government officials took premeditated steps to obstruct elder abuse law enforcement. Most of the reporters did not respond to us at all. Or if they did respond, they invariably said that they were not interested in covering the story.

Mainstream news reporters avoid exposing the political, corporate, and administrative pressures in California government agencies not to crack down on elder abuse in nursing homes

Some mainstream investigative reporters in California have written a few excellent stories and exposés embarrassing the agencies charged with enforcement of elder abuse in nursing homes. One exceptional example is The Sacramento Bee’s September 18, 2011 “Falsified Patient Records Are Untold Story of California Nursing Home Care” and September 19, 2011 “Woman’s Death Raises Questions about Nursing Home Medical Records” by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Marjie Lundstrom. These two stories, which were part of Ms. Lundstrom’s superb series covering the widespread problem of patient records falsification in nursing homes, detailed the egregious elder abuse and death of nursing home resident Ms. Johnnie Esco in 2008 and the decision by California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse (BMFEA) not to file any charges.

But mainstream news reporters’ exposés on California government agencies, such as the BMFEA and California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) Licensing and Certification Program, do not go far enough. In other words, although a few mainstream investigative reporters have exposed CDPH’s and BMFEA’s frequent failure to hold perpetrators accountable for elder abuse and fraud in nursing homes, no mainstream newspaper articles that we are aware of have aggressively investigated and exposed the underlying reasons (e.g., official corruption) that would explain why CDPH and BMFEA usually protect wealthy, politically connected nursing homes, instead of the vulnerable residents in those facilities.

Miami Herald investigative series and 2012 Pulitzer Prize finalist Neglected to Death exposed underlying reasons state regulators and legislators “have cruelly turned its back on so many sick and helpless people”

For a rare example of hard-hitting investigative journalism trying to protect vulnerable seniors in long-term care facilities by exposing government complicity in elder abuse and death, see the Miami Herald investigative series Neglected to Death. Written by a Miami Herald team of reporters that included Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Michael Sallah, Carol Marbin Miller, and Rob Barry, the outstanding Neglected to Death series was a 2012 Pulitzer Prize finalist in the Public Service category of the Journalism competition “for its exposure of deadly abuses and lax state oversight in Florida’s assisted-living facilities for the elderly and mentally ill that resulted in the closure of dangerous homes, punishment of violators and creation of tougher laws and regulations.” As a result of the widespread corruption by the very government regulators who are responsible for protecting vulnerable and disabled seniors, Neglected to Death detailed the rampant elder neglect and abuse in Florida’s assisted-living facilities (ALFs), falsified patient records, and Florida regulators’ dreadful record of enforcement against even the worst abusers. The Miami Herald investigative team even referred to Florida’s state regulators of ALFs as “ALFs foxes guarding the henhouses” who “have cruelly turned its back on so many sick and helpless people.”

You may want to contact investigative reporters in California to try to influence them to emulate the hard-hitting investigative journalism of the Miami Herald series Neglected to Death

If you have some time to spare (and probably to waste) to contact mainstream news reporters in California to see if they will expose the reasons state regulators and lawmakers have, according to the Miami Herald investigative series Neglected to Death, “cruelly turned its back on so many sick and helpless people” in long-term care facilities, you can contact the news reporters below. You can appeal to them to summon the courage to carry out their responsibility as the “fourth branch of government” and truly act as an independent watchdog over the other three branches of government on behalf of the public.

The following mainstream and alternative news reporters, editors, and producers have written stories on or expressed interest in elder abuse and neglect, the nursing home inspection and complaint investigation process, prosecutions of criminal elder abuse, California licensing and regulatory agencies, California law enforcement agencies, or the California probate court system:

  1. Lowell Bergman
    Lowell Bergman is a veteran, Pulitzer Prize-winning and Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter and television producer based in Berkeley, California and currently a producer and correspondent for the PBS documentary television series Frontline. Since 2005, Mr. Bergman has been the Reva and David Logan Distinguished Professor of Investigative Reporting at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught investigative reporting since 1991 or 1992.

    Mr. Bergman began his long and distinguished print and television journalism career as a writer for the San Diego Free Press, which was an alternative, underground, biweekly newspaper that Mr. Bergman and fellow philosophy students at the University of California, San Diego co-founded in November 1968. After working as an associate editor at Rolling Stone in the 1970s, Mr. Bergman co-founded in 1977 the “independent, nonpartisan” Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), which is “the nation’s oldest nonprofit investigative reporting organization—producing multimedia reporting that enables people to demand accountability from government, corporations and others in power.” (In 2009, CIR launched its California Watch, “the largest group of journalists dedicated to investigative reporting in the state.”)

    Mr. Bergman later worked as a news producer and investigative reporter for ABC News’ television news magazine 20/20 in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a producer for CBS News’ television news magazine 60 Minutes from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s, and an investigative reporter for the New York Times from 1998 to 2008. Mr. Bergman has also served as a consultant to nonprofit investigative news organizations, including the Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica.

    While doing an investigation of the tobacco industry for 60 Minutes, Mr. Bergman conducted and videotaped his now-famous interview of tobacco industry insider and whistlelblower Dr. Jeffrey Wigand, who was the vice president of research and development at Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation and who was later portrayed by Russell Crowe in the critically acclaimed feature film The Insider (1999). The film was based on the actual events surrounding the private meetings and taped interview (which CBS management never allowed to be broadcast due to fear of a possible multibillion dollar lawsuit against CBS) between Dr. Wigand and Mr. Bergman, who was portrayed by Al Pacino.

    Mr. Bergman was the co-writer, co-producer, and correspondent for the superb collaborative investigative series by Frontline, ProPublica and NPR called Post Mortem: Death Investigation in America (series via Frontline and ProPublica). Post Mortem, which aired on Frontline on February 1, 2011, investigated the 2,300 coroner and medical examiner offices throughout the United States and “uncovered a deeply dysfunctional system that quite literally buries its mistakes.”
  2. Marjie Lundstrom
    Marjie Lundstrom is an investigative reporter for The Sacramento Bee and a 1991 Pulitzer Prize winner in the National Reporting category of the Journalism competition “for reporting that disclosed hundreds of child abuse-related deaths go undetected each year as a result of errors by medical examiners.”

    “Ms. Lundstrom wrote The Sacramento Bee’s September 18, 2011 “Falsified Patient Records Are Untold Story of California Nursing Home Care” and September 19, 2011 “Woman’s Death Raises Questions about Nursing Home Medical Records” These two stories, which were part of Ms. Lundstrom’s superb series and exposé covering the widespread problem of patient records falsification in nursing homes, detailed the egregious elder abuse and death of nursing home resident Ms. Johnnie Esco in 2008 and the decision by California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse (BMFEA) not to file any charges.

    Ms. Lundstrom followed up that series with her March 16, 2012 “Nurses Face Felony Charges in Death of Cameron Park Man’s Wife.” The article explained that Attorney General Harris’ BMFEA, which is headed by its director, Mark Geiger, and its chief of prosecutions, Mark Zahner, reopened its 2008 criminal investigation of Johnnie Esco’s death and filed felony charges against two licensed nurses (but not the nursing home) only after Ms. Lundstrom’s embarrassing September 2011 exposé.
  3. Christina Jewett
    Formerly at The Sacramento Bee and the independent, nonprofit, public-interest ProPublica, Christina Jewett is now an investigative reporter for California Watch, which is “the largest group of journalists dedicated to investigative reporting in the state” and was launched in the summer of 2009 by the “independent, nonpartisan” Center for Investigative Reporting.

    Ms. Jewett, who covers health and welfare issues, elder care, and state enforcement and oversight of health and welfare systems, has written many articles, especially in 2010 and 2011, on elder abuse and neglectful care in noncompliant nursing homes in California. For example, Ms. Jewett has written articles on the following: the decline in civil and criminal elder abuse prosecutions by the Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse (BMFEA), the failure of the BMFEA and other California law enforcement agencies to hold perpetrators responsible for elder abuse in nursing homes, and California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) lax oversight of nursing homes. Ms. Jewett has also covered alleged Medicare fraud by major nursing home chains, deficient nursing homes that cut staff and wages after receiving additional state funding to increase staff and wages, CDPH’s failure to collect fines levied against noncompliant nursing homes, and nursing homes that bill the state for legal fees to appeal CDPH’s regulatory penalties.
  4. Charles Ornstein
    Charles Ornstein is an investigative reporter for the independent, nonprofit, public-interest ProPublica and a 2005 Pulitzer Prize co-winner in the Public Service category of the Journalism competition “for its courageous, exhaustively researched series exposing deadly medical problems and racial injustice at a major public hospital.”

    Mr. Ornstein and his ProPublica colleague Tracy Weber wrote the multi-part investigative series When Caregivers Harm: America’s Unwatched Nurses, which was jointly published by ProPublica and the Los Angeles Times and was a 2010 finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in the Public Service category. According to When Caregivers Harm, the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) “often takes years to act on complaints of egregious misconduct, leaving nurses accused of wrongdoing free to practice without restrictions” and “has failed to protect patients from nurses who are incompetent and dangerous.” The BRN “failed to act against nurses whose misconduct already had been thoroughly documented and sanctioned by others [e.g., employers or another state licensing board]…yet [who] have blemish-free records with the nursing board,” said the July 11, 2009 “When Caregivers Harm: Problem Nurses Stay on the Job as Patients Suffer” by Mr. Ornstein, Ms. Weber, and the Los Angeles Times’ Maloy Moore.

    Mr. Ornstein also wrote the August 14, 2012 “Tipsheet: How to Use Nursing Home Inspect” and, with his ProPublica colleague Lena Groeger, the August 14, 2012 “What We Found Using Nursing Home Inspect” to announce and explain the launch of ProPublica’s brand-new Nursing Home Inspect. Nursing Home Inspect is “a tool that allows anyone to easily search and analyze the details of recent nursing home inspections, most completed since January 2011.”
  5. Tracy Weber
    Tracy Weber is an investigative reporter for the independent, nonprofit, public-interest ProPublica and a 2005 Pulitzer Prize co-winner in the Public Service category of the Journalism competition “for its courageous, exhaustively researched series exposing deadly medical problems and racial injustice at a major public hospital.”

    Ms. Weber and her ProPublica colleague Charles Ornstein wrote the multi-part investigative series When Caregivers Harm: America’s Unwatched Nurses, which was jointly published by ProPublica and the Los Angeles Times and was a 2010 finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in the Public Service category. According to When Caregivers Harm, the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) “often takes years to act on complaints of egregious misconduct, leaving nurses accused of wrongdoing free to practice without restrictions” and “has failed to protect patients from nurses who are incompetent and dangerous.” The BRN “failed to act against nurses whose misconduct already had been thoroughly documented and sanctioned by others [e.g., employers or another state licensing board]…yet [who] have blemish-free records with the nursing board,” said the July 11, 2009 “When Caregivers Harm: Problem Nurses Stay on the Job as Patients Suffer” by Ms. Weber, Mr. Ornstein, and the Los Angeles Times’ Maloy Moore.
  6. Chisun Lee
    Formerly a staff writer at the Village Voice, Chisun Lee, is an investigative reporter for the independent, nonprofit, public-interest ProPublica.

    Ms. Lee and her ProPublica colleague A.C. Thompson co-wrote the December 21, 2011 “Gone Without a Case: Suspicious Elder Deaths Rarely Investigated,” which is a part of the excellent collaborative investigative series by Frontline, ProPublica, and NPR called Post Mortem: Death Investigation in America (via Frontline and ProPublica). The Post Mortem series investigated the 2,300 coroner and medical examiner offices throughout the United States and “uncovered a deeply dysfunctional system that quite literally buries its mistakes.” Ms. Lee and Mr. Thompson’s “Gone Without a Case: Suspicious Elder Deaths Rarely Investigated” found that “the system to examine unusual fatalities often fails seniors, leaving them vulnerable to neglect, abuse and even murder.”
  7. A.C. Thompson
    Formerly an investigative reporter for the SF Weekly and San Francisco Bay Guardian, A.C. Thompson is an investigative reporter for the independent, nonprofit, public-interest ProPublica.

    Mr. Thompson, who won the the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2005, and his ProPublica colleague Chisun Lee co-wrote the December 21, 2011 “Gone Without a Case: Suspicious Elder Deaths Rarely Investigated,” which is a part of the excellent collaborative investigative series by Frontline, ProPublica, and NPR called Post Mortem: Death Investigation in America (via Frontline and ProPublica). The Post Mortem series investigated the 2,300 coroner and medical examiner offices throughout the United States and “uncovered a deeply dysfunctional system that quite literally buries its mistakes.” Mr. Thompson and Ms. Lee’s “Gone Without a Case: Suspicious Elder Deaths Rarely Investigated” found that “the system to examine unusual fatalities often fails seniors, leaving them vulnerable to neglect, abuse and even murder.”
  8. ProPublica
    ProPublica is “an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.” According to the New York City-based ProPublica, its mission is “to expose abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust by government, business, and other institutions, using the moral force of investigative journalism to spur reform through the sustained spotlighting of wrongdoing.”

    If you have story ideas or suggestions for ProPublica, you can send them to ProPublica’s suggestions email address or directly to one or more of ProPublica’s news reporters.
  9. Maria L. La Ganga
    The Pulitzer Prize-winning Maria L. La Ganga is the San Fransisco bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times.

    Ms. La Ganga has shown interest in and has written articles about elder abuse and the criminal justice system, such as “Death of 91-Year-Old Spotlights Line between Care and Killing” in the June 2, 2011 Los Angeles Times.

    When an Elder Abuse Exposed.com member contacted Ms. La Ganga to comment on her June 2, 2011 article, to suggest possible stories on elder abuse, and to provide evidence about an elderly man who had recently and tragically died in a neglectful nursing home, Ms. La Ganga took the time to respond in a very gracious manner. In her response, Ms. La Ganga demonstrated unusual empathy and compassion about the terrible circumstances surrounding the unfortunate man’s death during elder abuse.
  10. Karen de Sá
    Karen de Sá (phone: 408-920-5781) is a San Jose Mercury News investigative reporter who wrote the July 2012 investigative series and special report Loss of Trust. Ms. de Sá’s special report exposed how Santa Clara County Superior Court probate judges and local rules have been allowing court-appointed fiduciaries, such as trustees and conservators, to submit outrageous, exorbitant bills to and deplete the estates of vulnerable and disabled seniors and dependent adults.

    Ms. de Sá was also the lead investigative reporter for the San Jose Mercury News’ July 2010 investigative series and special report How Our Laws Are Really Made, which exposed how lobbyists for well-financed, influential special interest groups representing private industries and industry trade groups actually write the majority of the bills that California legislators in Sacramento pass into law.
  11. Brian Ross
    Brian Ross (phone: 212-456-7612) is a veteran, highly honored investigative reporter who is ABC News’ chief investigative correspondent. Mr. Ross and ABC News’ chief of investigative projects, Rhonda Schwartz, who both formed the Brian Ross Investigative Unit at ABC News in the mid-1990s, are responsible for in-depth investigative reporting for ABC News television programs, including Good Morning America, ABC World News, Nightline, 20/20, and Primetime. Mr. Ross and Ms. Schwartz’s investigative reports on television and on ABC News’ The Blotter on ABCNews.com have “exposed corruption at all levels of government.”

    Before coming to ABC News in 1994, Mr. Ross worked for 20 years at NBC News, sometimes with Ms. Schwartz, as an award-winning investigative reporter for the NBC Nightly News and the weekly television news magazine Dateline NBC.
  12. Rhonda Schwartz
    Rhonda Schwartz (phone: 212-456-7612) is a veteran Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter and producer who is ABC News’ chief of investigative projects. Ms. Schwartz and ABC News’ chief investigative correspondent, Brian Ross, who both formed the Brian Ross Investigative Unit at ABC News in the mid-1990s, are responsible for in-depth investigative reporting for ABC News television programs, including Good Morning America, ABC World News, Nightline, 20/20, and Primetime. Ms. Schwartz and Mr. Ross’  investigative reports on television and on ABC News’ The Blotter on ABCNews.com have “exposed corruption at all levels of government.”

    Before coming to ABC News in 1995, Ms. Schwartz worked for more than 20 years at NBC News, sometimes with Mr. Ross, on various television news magazine programs.
  13. Michael Radutzky
    Michael Radutzky is a veteran, Emmy Award-winning investigative producer who has been a senior producer for CBS News’ weekly television news magazine 60 Minutes since late 2006.

    Mr. Radutzky started his journalism career as a reporter for various Chicago newspapers, including the Chicago Sun-Times. In the mid-1980s, Mr. Radutzky worked for CBS as a research assistant to WBBM-TV news anchor and commentator Walter Jacobson, who was sued (along with CBS) by the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation in a landmark libel case. Mr. Radutzky later worked for CBS as an investigative and news producer for CBS Morning News and CBS Evening News from 1987 to late 1995, when he joined 60 Minutes as a producer.
  14. Sarah Fenske
    Sarah Fenske is the editor-in-chief of the alternative weekly newspaper LA Weekly in Los Angeles, California. Ms. Fenske is a former columnist and award-winning investigative reporter at the alternative newsweekly Phoenix New Times in Phoenix, Arizona and previously a managing editor of the alternative newsweekly Riverfront Times in St. Louis, Missouri.

    While at the Phoenix New Times, Ms. Fenske won the 2010 Livingston Award for excellence by media professionals under the age of 35 in the Local Reporting category for her four-part series of special reports Mr. Big Stuff. This hard-hitting series was “an investigation of the housing director of Maricopa County, AZ that revealed flagrant nepotism, cronyism and other corruption that forced his resignation and the reorganization of the department.”
  15. Tom Walsh
    Tom Walsh is the editor-in-chief of the alternative weekly newspaper SF Weekly in San Francisco, California, where California Attorney General Kamala Harris served two terms as district attorney just before she became the chief law enforcement officer for the people of California and responsible for her Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse (BMFEA).
  16. Rachel Leibrock
    Rachel Leibrock and Nick Miller are the co-editors of the alternative weekly newspaper Sacramento News & Review in Sacramento, California. Ms. Leibrock has written for the Sacramento News & Review and The Sacramento Bee.
  17. Nick Miller
    Nick Miller and Rachel Leibrock are the co-editors of the alternative weekly newspaper Sacramento News & Review in Sacramento, California. Mr. Miller is a former managing editor of the Sacramento News & Review.
  18. Tom Negrete
    Having worked at The Sacramento Bee since 1994 in various editorial positions, Tom Negrete is the managing editor of The Sacramento Bee. Mr. Negrete supervises The Sacramento Bee newsroom staff, which includes investigative reporters, such as Marjie Lundstrom, who is listed above and has focused on elder abuse and patient records falsification in nursing homes.

    After you contact Ms. Lundstrom, you may want to call Mr. Negrete at (916) 321-1171 or email him or another Sacramento Bee reporter.
  19. Marc Duvoisin
    Having served as an assistant managing editor (starting in 2001) and a deputy managing editor (starting in 2007) of the Los Angeles Times, Marc Duvoisin has been managing editor of the Los Angeles Times since August 2012.
  20. Ashley Dunn
    Joining the Los Angeles Times in 1986 and leaving briefly to work at the New York Times, Ashley Dunn has been the Los Angeles Times assistant managing editor in charge of California news since March 2011. According to the Los Angeles Times, Mr. Dunn supervises the newspaper’s largest group of editors and reporters.
  21. Evan Halper
    Evan Halper has been the Sacramento bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times since November 2008. Mr. Halper has worked for various news media outlets, including Newsweek, ABC News, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and, since 2001, the Los Angeles Times.
  22. Paige St. John
    Paige St. John is a veteran investigative reporter who has worked in the Los Angeles Times’ Sacramento bureau since July 2012.

    Before coming to the Los Angeles Times, Ms. Paige worked as a journalist for more than 30 years for various news agencies, including Gannett News Service, The Detroit News, the Associated Press, and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. While at the the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Ms. Paige won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in the Investigative Reporting category “for her examination of weaknesses in the murky property-insurance system vital to Florida homeowners, providing handy data to assess insurer reliability and stirring regulatory action.”

    Ms. Paige has also covered the failure of federal regulators to protect patients from manufacturers making medical devices that are susceptible to human and nursing errors and therefore contribute to preventable medical mistakes and deaths.
  23. Jennifer Gollan
    Jennifer Gollan is an investigative reporter and watchdog journalist for The Bay Citizen who focuses on local and regional politics and government oversight.

    Ms. Gollan has written for the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Marin Independent Journal, the Santa Barbara News-Press, and the Los Angeles Times.

    An expert at using the California Public Records Act (PDF, 283 KB) and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to gather public data, Ms. Gollan has said that her job is “to hold government officials accountable on behalf of citizens and inform the public discourse” and to use public documents and other sources “to root out waste, self-dealing and conflicts of interest.”
  24. Katharine Mieszkowski
    Katharine Mieszkowski (phone: 415-821-8531) is a senior reporter for The Bay Citizen who covers the environment and health. Ms. Mieszkowski has written for Salon, Fast Company, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, and Ms. Magazine.
  25. Los Angeles Times
    You can send news tips, ideas, and suggestions to the Los Angeles Times newsroom or directly to one or more of the Los Angeles Times editors and reporters.
  26. The Bay Citizen
    Founded in 2010, the San Francisco-based Bay Citizen is “a nonprofit, nonpartisan, member-supported news organization dedicated to promoting innovation in journalism and catalyzing citizen engagement with the news” and “is made up of award-winning journalists who cover a wide variety of Bay Area news topics that are often under-reported or unavailable through other sources.”

    In May 2012, The Bay Citizen merged with the Center for Investigative Reporting, which is “the longest running nonprofit investigative news center in the nation” and which launched California Watch, “the largest group of journalists dedicated to investigative reporting in the state” in the summer of 2009.

    You can send news tips, ideas, and suggestions to the The Bay Citizen newsroom or directly to one or more of the The Bay Citizen editors and reporters.
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