Investigative Series on Palm Drive Hospital Wins Top SF Area Journalism Awards

Independent truth telling challenged deceptive political narrative

(this article first appeared on April 16, 2016)
Last weekend, the SF Peninsula Press Club announced the annual winners of its 2015 Greater Bay Journalism Award contest for work published last year. The investigative series by this reporter about the closing of Palm Drive Hospital won the first place award for “Digital Media: Columns-News/Political.” It also won third place for “Continuing Coverage.”

The largest exposé in the series, “How A Bondholder-Friendly Shutdown Playbook Secretly Sunk Palm Drive Hospital,” won the first place award for a “Feature Story/Serious Nature.”  It also won second place for “Analysis/Investigative Story.”

These stories were originally published at prior to the April 2015 founding of The Sonoma Independent and its parent non-profit, Informing to Empower. They have recently been republished on one page here. The ‘Shutdown Playbook” exposé, here, was viewed more than 27,000 times, by more than 15,000 people. It followed “Palm Drive’s Lawyers Say That Community Does Not Want to Re-Open Emergency Room.” Prior to the election, the series continued with a column on “Why Electing Jim Horn Will Doom Hospital.” The series concluded, on December 30, 2014, with an inside media story about Rollie Atkinson titled, “ Sonoma West’s Relentless Vendetta to Stop Dan Smith from Re-Opening Palm Drive Hospital.”

I was privileged to be the second keynote speaker at this year’s Greater Bay area journalism awards luncheon in Foster City last weekend. (A video of the full speech can be viewed below). For the full text of this speech, click here:  Independent Media’s Vital Role in Protecting the Public Interest, Not the Powerful

I used the opportunity to talk about the importance of independent investigative reporting to challenge false narratives of the powerful, like the deceptive arguments used to close Palm Drive Hospital and reject the doctor-led community plant keep it open.

By providing a truthful narrative that challenged the carefully orchestrated falsehoods that were being promoted by hospital board officials in the traditional media, this independent reporting assisted in the “Open Our Hospital” grassroots uprising by thousands of West County residents. During last November’s election, tens of thousands voted for the “Doc and the Cop” to overturn the Hospital Board majority that was intent upon keeping Palm Drive’s emergency room closed. The popular intent at the ballot box voted against a candidate that had the endorsement of every elected official in the area, as well as the leaders of the politically influential group, Sebastopol Tomorrow.

With a new Board majority, people power registered a rare success: getting something for our community that our politicians and so-called political leaders insisted that we could not have.

As a result, with the help of millions of dollars from community leaders Dan Smith and Joan Marler, the new Sonoma West Medical Center is now open. It is the first time in modern history that a small American hospital has closed and reopened.

Earlier this year, my work on these stories and the hospital struggle inspired me, and our Board of Directors, to create the Sonoma Independent, and our parent non-profit public interest media organization, Informing to Empower. Our mission is to provide our community with high quality independent investigative reporting, and new insight into solutions that have little voice. In our first eight months, our stories have moved the needle on issues that corporate and public radio media in Sonoma County continue to ignore, including:

The Sonoma Independent is part of a growing trend in investigative reporting: non-profit media organizations that exist to go deeply into issues largely unreported by a resource-challenged corporate media. These organizations include Pro Publica, Minneapolis’ MinnPost, the Texas Tribune, and the Bay Area’s California Watch, from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Reporting that brings greater transparency and accountability is often seen by those with power as confrontational. I like to think of it as being constructive, instead of compliant. Of acting as a watchdog of the powerful, instead of a stenographer. Public interest investigative journalism uncovers new facts, while raising awareness of issues, possibilities and solutions that few citizens are aware of.

The Sonoma Independent is working to sustain a media that champions the public interest by raising awareness of unreported truths that can lead to public pressure for solutions that can make a difference.

A robust independent, questioning media serves a unique role in providing a voice to the voiceless, a check and balance to the powerful, and a vision of new possibilities, all of which are necessary ingredients for a thriving free society.

As a 501c3 non-profit, our work depends upon the support of our community. We are all in this together. Tax-deductible contributions are greatly appreciated, and  can be made from this page.

Jonathan Greenberg

The founder and Editor of the Sonoma County Independent, Greenberg is an investigative financial journalist with 40 years of experience with national publications. Greenberg also serves as founder and Executive Director of Informing to Empower, the parent non-profit of both the Sonoma Independent and the Maui Independent. Greenberg has won awards from the Greater Bay Journalism Awards for the past four years on behalf of the Sonoma Independent, starting with his coverage of the closing of County library cutbacks, and then the struggle to reopen Palm Drive Hospital. Jonathan Greenberg recently wrote three of the most widely-read exposes about Trump’s career ever published on the Washington Post. Jonathan was the notorious Forbes 400 reporter who taped two long Trump calls in 1984 in which he pretended to be the fictitious John Baron. His Post expose about this, with audio here, has been the subject of monologues on Colbert, the Daily Show and Seth Meyer’s A Closer Look. Jonathan has appeared live on a dozen top news shows, including Chris Cuomo’s CNN Good Day and most recently on CNN’s prime time Upfront with Erin Burnett to expose Trump’s latest lies. Jonathan was a Web 1.0 pioneer, founding Gist Communications in 1996, an Internet company that competed successfully with TV Guide Online. In 1997, Gist was one of just 14 websites in the world to be named a winner of the First Annual Webby Awards in San Francisco. Jonathan’s professional career began as a fact checker at Forbes Magazine, where he advanced to the role of the lead reporter in creating the first Forbes 400 listing of wealthy Americans, as recounted in this recent article for Forbes’ 100th anniversary issue and more extensively in this biography of Malcolm Forbes. Jonathan has been an investigative financial and political journalist for such national publications as The Washington Post, The New York Times, New York Magazine, Mother Jones, Forbes, Town & Country, Money, GQ, Manhattan,Inc., The New Republic, and Alternet. From 2011 through 2017, Jonathan was a blogger for the Huffington Post, where his narrative-transforming reporting and analysis about subjects like Bernie Sanders, Monsanto and Native Hawaiian water protectors achieved some of the widest readership of any HuffPost writer on these subjects. Jonathan’s nearly 40 years of professional media and reporting experience has been enhanced by a Yale Law School Masters Degree fellowship program, from which he graduated with honors in First Amendment Law from internationally renowned attorney Floyd Abrams and then Yale University President Benno Schmidt. Jonathan is the author of the critically acclaimed biography Staking A Claim: Jake Simmons and the Making of an African-American Oil Dynasty, which a Washington Post Book World front page review called, “a rare biography that challenges the readers senses in the same the way science fiction does.” In 1992, he edited Buying America Back: Economic Choices for the 1990′s, an anthology of 45 progressive solution-oriented essays called by Publisher’s Weekly, “An immensely important resource for policymakers, community activists, and everyone concerned with building a more humane future.”
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    12 December 2015 at 6:05 pm

    Wow. Brilliant presentation ; the behind the scene scandal of Palm Drive and how you investigated and reported the dirty-secrets is amazing and certainly is worthy of our Highest Prize/Recognition and Thanks! Biggest Congratulations on helping so diligently our Commonunity to thrive ! Look forward to your voice{s} ringing loud&true and us hearing and supporting you .

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