Partners HealthCare vs. the Globe

Talk about getting out in front of a story.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

On Sunday, the Boston Globe offered up the second installment of its Spotlight team series on the big-foot dominance of Partners HealthCare in Massachusetts health care. This time the focus was Partners' aggressive expansion in the suburbs, a battle for market share that the Globe says isn't exactly a fair fight, given the giant health care network's ability to extract higher payments from insurers than other providers and outbid community hospitals for the services of top doctors.  Not only is Partners not taking the hit sitting down, the health care behemoth managed to air its side of the story before the piece even appeared.

Partners ran a full-page ad in the Globe on December 15, six before the story ran in the paper. The focus the story was going to take was undoubtedly clear to Partners in the weeks before its publication; Partners board chairman Jack Connors is quoted extensively in the piece responding to charges that health network is bullying its way to dominance in suburban markets. Rather than play catch-up and react after the fact, Partners apparently decided to get its response out before the actual story. The ad, which ran under the banner "Because people get sick in the city — and the suburbs," extols the integrated health care delivery system Partners is building with its suburban outposts linked to its flagship Boston hospitals and it points out that several of Partners' suburban hospital takeovers were initiated at the behest of the once-struggling hospitals. (Partners ran a full-page rebuttal ad in the Globe last month following the first installment in the series.) 

The two Spotlight pieces to date have raised lots of good questions about the Massachusetts health care world. On top of that, could the aggressive advertising campaign in reaction by Partners in the pages of the Globe point the way toward a strategy to combat the free fall in newspaper advertising revenue? Press watchdogs are always on the lookout for instances of a paper going easy on a big advertiser. The Spotlight series suggests that aggressive reporting, if focused on a subject with deep pockets, might not only fulfill the journalistic credo to afflict the comfortable, it could help the paper's bottom line, too.