Irritated by what he describes as an effort to use FaceBook as part of a longstanding campaign to blacken the reputation of the new hospital, which opened in 2015, "pumping out a stream of falsehoods and "tagging" local media in their posts, baiting them to bite," GRMC Communications Officer Kevin Kerrigan has offered a primer for those who take everything they see in the social media at face value.
Kerrigan, a veteran reporter, has been a familiar face on Guam for many years, most recently serving as news director for Sorensen Media's Pacific News Center and previously as a well recognized investigative reporter at the former Guam Cable TV.
Kerrigan put his educational effort in the form of a "Letter to the Editor."
FaceBook posts are not news stories. The public, reporters in particular, should always be wary because FaceBook is sometimes a place where those with private agendas push out fake "facts" in order to influence public opinion for personal gain.
That's what a few local social media aficionados began doing a couple of years ago when they adopted FaceBook as a weapon in an effort to damage the reputation of Guam Regional Medical City [GRMC]. Ever since, they've been pumping out a stream of falsehoods and "tagging" local media in their posts, baiting them to bite.
One of their frequent refrains has been the assertion that GovGuam "gave away millions of dollars in tax breaks" to GRMC by granting the hospital a Qualifying Certificate [QC]. That allegation recently re-surfaced again in the wake of a proposal to raise taxes to help support Guam Memorial Hospital.
GRMC has taken no position on the proposed legislation, but make no mistake, GRMC is committed to supporting our health care partners at GMH. We are not in competition with them, we share services, we share employees, we complement each other and we need each other to meet the demand for health care on Guam. In fact, when GRMC compared its payer mix to the recently released 2016 audit of GMH, we learned that our percentage of insured and uninsured patients is practically identical to GMH.
However, the GRMC QC has no logical place in the current tax debate. It was approved years ago by GEDA, the Guam Legislature and Governor Calvo who signed it in January 2015. GEDA's own QC analysis found that GRMC would generate $420.2 million in new taxes for GovGuam, more than double the $170.6 million dollar tax rebate/abatement that was granted over a period of 20 years.
Even though this was all publicly debated and reported on by the media more than two years ago, our FaceBook adversaries continue to trot out this "tax give away" assertion, conveniently failing to mention that GRMC will generate more than twice as much in tax benefits, not to mention the fact that GRMC now employs 700 people in skilled, high paying jobs, all of whom pay income tax to GovGuam, and nearly 80 percent of whom are Guamanians of all backgrounds.
Sadly, one local media outlet recently stooped to raise this tired old FaceBook "tax give away" falsehood to the level of "news" by giving unquestioned voice to the most notorious proponent of this claim, a person who went on to make the additional assertion, on air, that rescinding the GRMC QC would magically make available much of the millions needed for GMH. Unbelievable! As if GRMC has made sufficient "millions" to pay "millions" more in taxes. A preposterous claim, yet aired without challenge or question in this dubious "news story."
This same FaceBook proponent also linked his name to a post by another like-minded FaceBook user who made the false claim that GRMC was no longer offering a variety of specialty services. A number of reporters were duly "tagged" and called on to report this fallacy as fact. One reporter bit and asked for comment. We provided it, detailing our list of specialty services. Yet this FaceBook proponent in this dubious "news story" was allowed to echo this second fantasy allegation as well, unquestioned. The reporter had in hand our detailed rebuttal refuting it, but made no reference to it. Incredibly, not a word of our response was aired. Those who stoop to "reporting" blatantly biased views without question, should at least give equal time to the facts they asked for, and we gave them.
FaceBook posts are not news. Reporters should not dignify stale and discredited allegations without bringing a critical eye to the assertions made and questioning the motives of those who make them. Reporters who fail to do this are no more than dumpster diving for news.
Kevin Kerrigan, GRMC Communications Officer