Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Michele McPhee Continues To Ignore True Journalistic Practices

Michele McPhee is a name that is going to come up often on this blog. For those readers not local to Massachusetts Michele McPhee is, according to her own Facebook page:
Best-selling author of five true crime books; Emmy-nominated investigative reporter; award-winning columnist and crime reporter.
Recently Ms. McPhee has begun a new radio program in the Boston area, which could be a reason for her sensationalism in her Facebook posts, however, I don't have any evidence to back that up other than personal belief.

Ms. McPhee originally caught my attention for a post she made about EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer a.k.a. Massachusetts food stamp variant). After seeing her post I decided to comment on her page noting her of some problems I had with errors I believe she made on her post. My remarks were removed from her page, and the post was edited to make it appear that Ms. McPhee has not made those statements.

One of the basic ethical rules of journalism is that if you make a mistake on an article, you not only correct it, but you make a notation that there was a correction, or change. This way people who have already read the article will understand they have gotten the wrong information, and new readers will be able to see the revisions. Accidents happen, and acknowledging them, and correcting them is common practice. When "accidents" happen, and people attempt to cover them up is when questions start to arise  about motive, let alone the failed journalistic practices.

After Ms. McPhee has scrubbed her page I penned an article, and asked her publicly to at least address the issues I had raised. That article was written on August 8th, 2012 and as of 8:00 A.M. E.S.T. on August 22nd, 2012 I have had no response from Ms. McPhee or any of her representatives.

Since then Ms. McPhee has continued to make several posts on her Facebook page about EBT, and problems she personally believes are wrong with the system. The way she is going about causing changes to the EBT system reflect poorly on any real vindication to do such a thing. It appears that Ms. McPhee has latched onto a cause, and is using it to further her own career regardless of what general guidelines she will break in the process.

Ms. McPhee then posted, on August 17th, on her Facebook page the story of Jose Pacheco, a Rhode Island prison inmate who recently received a liver transplant in Boston. It is after posting the story that Ms. McPhee's journalistic practices come into serious question, or if she is purposely being deceitful in order to further her own personal agenda.

Ms. McPhee claims to be an investigative journalist yet no investigation, and very little journalism are present. It's mostly sensationalism that is made to cause tensions between the haves and have nots, the rich and poor. There was once a time where the things Ms. McPhee stated would have gotten her fired, however times have changed. I will now break down, with detail, what Ms. McPhee stated, why it is incorrect or only partially correct, questionable, or just poor journalism.

Ms. McPhee stated, and a screen shot is also available, that:
This month a 28-year-old Jose Pacheco -- a gun-toting, drug-dealing career criminal -- was transported from his Rhode Island jail cell to a Boston hospital for a ONE-MILLION-DOLLAR liver transplant. 
Who paid for it? Got a mirror? 
But a 23-year-old autistic man can't get on a heart transplant list because he is not a worthy candidate? 
Forgive me if I would much rather have my beating heart keep someone who is the love of his mother's life alive rather than some armed loser who will probably use my liver to drink EBT booze.
To make it easier I have highlighted the problems with the above post, and will one by one address them below.

"[A] gun-toting, drug-dealing career criminal":
There is no evidence that I could find through my investigation that Mr. Pacheco owned a gun. At the very least he was never arrested, let alone charged, or convicted of any gun laws. If Ms. McPhee has an agenda with the Second Amendment then one may see why she added the phrase "gun-toting" to her post. It at the very least causes sensationalism, and when combined with the other aspects of the case make people associate the negativity with guns. That is a cheap tactic, and shouldn't be used in articles by professionals.

"ONE-MILLION-DOLLAR liver transplant."
I have not found a source that stated that Mr. Pacheco's actual surgery cost $1million. I am currently in the process of contacting Boston hospitals to attempt to gather a more accurate number on the cost of the operation. According to Tracey Zeckhausen, a spokeswoman for the Rhode Island Department of Corrections, stated that they did not have a cost estimate for the procedure. Efforts to get in touch with Ms. Zeckhausen are underway in an attempt to go straight to the source, instead of relying on other articles. Ms. McPhee, as an investigative journalist, should understand the importance of properly sourcing, and citing their material.

Who paid for it? Got a mirror?
Rhode Island, as a state, must pay 60% of the cost of the operation. The additional 40% is to be taken up by the Federal Medicare program. Ms. McPhee's audience is primarilly in Massachusetts, and while Massachusetts tax-payers are contributing to Medicare, unless they are also residents of Rhode Island they will be paying no taxes to that state, and thus are not contributing to the 60% being payed by the state. This was not even mentioned, instead if was worded, and put together in a way to make it appear to the reader that the money for this is coming out of their pocket. Another way Ms. McPhee is attempting to arise false emotions in her article, while ignoring actual facts.

Keep someone who is the love of his mother's life
As of right now I have not  been able to locate the mother of Mr. Pacheco, however I'm assuming that Ms. McPhee was not able to either. Without having contacted Mr. Pacheco's mother how could Ms. McPhee possibly know whether or not Jose was the "love of his mother's life". It is very possible that he is the love of her life, who made some poor decisions, ended up with a cocaine addiction, and committed non-violent crimes. A true journalist would not make statements like that without having something to back it up on, and state what that is, even if it is simply their own personal opinion it should still be made clear to the reader that it is not fact.

Armed loser
I refer again to the first point showing that there is no evidence of Mr. Pachenco having, or using a gun in any of the crimes he has been charged with. He is currently serving a 6 1/2 year sentence for "second degree robbery". According to Rhode Island law, § 11-39-1 - Penalty for robbery, a person cannot use a dangerous weapon in a robbery and be charged with second degree robbery. Had Mr. Pachenco been a "gun-toting" career criminal then he surely would have had a weapon during his robbery, and then would have been charged with first degree robbery. Ms. McPhee should come forward and tell the public where she is getting the information that Mr. Pachenco was in fact a "gun-toting" individual.

My Liver
This is simply my personal opinion, however, if someone is already dead it is very selfish to dictate who, and where that liver goes if you do not have it already pre-determined. I would like to know if Ms. McPhee could even possibly fall into this category, or if she is not even an organ donor. A picture of her license should show if she is an organ donor or not. I am a registered organ donor, and will post my license shortly to prove it. If Ms. McPhee isn't then it's shameful to use that in her statement to only raise emotions more.

EBT Booze:

You cannot legally purchase alcohol, or alcoholic beverages in the state of Massachusetts using EBT food stamps. You can, however use your EBT cash benefits to buy it. You can additionally use those cash benefits to buy anything you want, or go to an ATM take out the cash, and then purchase it that way. This shows that Ms. McPhee doesn't care about the issue of EBT reform, or she would bring up the point that it is the system that needs reform. A person can use their EBT cash benefits to get that cash from an ATM and do anything with it. If Ms. McPhee feels the need to tell people what to do with their EBT money, then she should seriously do something to address the issue, instead of writing articles that are only meant to inflame.

Ms. McPhee -
In closing I will once again publicly ask you to please respond to my articles referencing you, or to contact me with your contact information so that we may have an interview. I have highlighted several instances where you simply made up what you presented as facts, as well as several other distasteful practices that many distinguished investigative reporters would be ashamed to have tied to their name.

Link to first article

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