The Community Hospital story hit close to home; here’s why we felt compelled to confront it

Our mission at the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal is to give the news impartially, “without fear or favor”—words famously written by the publisher of the New York Times in 1896. Holding those with power to account is one of our core duties.

To that end, today we are publishing a report looking at what led to the ultimate closure of Community Hospital, a public asset owned by the city, and the unprecedented lease agreement that will require Long Beach to reimburse potentially tens of millions of dollars in losses to its operator.

This was a difficult story to report, not only because the subject matter is complicated, but because the operator at the center of this story, John Molina, is also the principal owner of the Post and Business Journal.

Pacific Community Media, or PCM, which oversees our two publications, is a subsidiary of Molina’s company Pacific6. (You can read a more detailed timeline of our ownership in our Transparency Portal.) The three-member board of directors for PCM consists of John Molina, Brandon Dowling (chief of staff for Pacific6) and David Sommers, the former publisher of the Post and Business Journal who recently stepped away from that role to become chief operating officer for Pacific6.

Molina, Dowling and Sommers have no involvement in our day-to-day editorial operation and no mechanism to directly influence our coverage. Still, pursuing this story—and not knowing what our reporting would uncover—put us in the position of potentially publishing unflattering information about the people who ultimately control our parent company.

It was an awkward situation but one we felt compelled to confront. One of the values laid out in the Post’s mission statement is integrity, telling the truth “even when it’s hard” and “even when it affects our bottom line.”

If we were going to keep that promise to our readers and the hundreds of community members who donate in support of our mission, we could not shy away from an important topic just because it hit close to home.

We needed to approach and evaluate this story like any other. To do that, reporters Kelly Puente and Brandon Richardson, along with the editors at the Post and Business Journal, treated Molina, Dowling and Sommers strictly as public figures worthy of news coverage, not as owners or directors of our board. What that means in practice:

  • The reporters went through normal channels to arrange interviews with the owners and directors, i.e., there was no expectation of special access;
  • Interactions and interviews with sources were preceded by a discussion of on-and-off-the-record protocols, as is standard practice in reporting;
  • Interview questions were chosen without regard for any potential impact to the relationship between our parent company and our publications;
  • It was made clear that the owners and directors would not receive an advance copy of the report and would not be allowed to make editorial changes.

To guard against conflicts, we are steadfast in adhering to the long-established code of ethics of our profession, which includes independence, transparency, and above all, to boldly seek truth and report it.

You can read the full special report on Community Hospital here.

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Melissa has been a journalist for over two decades, starting her career as a reporter covering health and religion and moving into local news. She has worked as an editor for eight years, including seven years at the Press Telegram before joining the Long Beach Post in June 2018. She also serves as a part-time lecturer at Cal State Long Beach where she teaches multimedia journalism and writing.
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