Tuesday, February 9, 2010


It’s always dicey ground when a political leader has a personal matter on the go. Where does the line fall between the public’s right to know and a human being’s privacy – and the person’s right to decide how to handle whatever it is that’s going on? The big one this week was Newfoundland & Labrador Premier Danny Williams’ “unspecified” heart condition, and his decision to have it treated at an “undisclosed” hospital south of the border. Those were the words used by media across the country, honing in on the unanswered questions – which were immediately turned into political footballs both here and in the U.S. as Williams’ condition became the latest flash point on Canadian vs. American health care policy. Nature abhors a vacuum and will fill it with whatever gets sucked in through the first breach in the weakest spot of the barrier – and the same holds true with a hot media story. Leave large blanks in the information you release, and it will immediately be filled with speculation – informed or otherwise – by commentators and activists alike. And that’s exactly what has happened with “Danny Millions,” as his detractors love to label him. Even setting aside previous political comments he has made with respect to Canadian medicare, the real communications Fumble was the simple fact that his office made what was really only half an announcement about what was wrong with him, where he was going and the nature of his treatment. Rather than laying all of those facts out at once – with a single round of reportage – Williams has instead initiated a game of cat and mouse with the national media, all of whom were quickly immersed in trying to be first to find the Premier, the hospital and the specifics on his condition and the procedure which will address it. It will all come out eventually anyway – why endure a thousand cuts in the media before the scapel even finds its mark in the O.R.?

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