New Orleans City Business fails to disclose important conflict of interest

For years, New Orleans City Business, a weekly publication in the metro area, has provided glowing editorial support for the proposed LSU/VA medical complex in spite of a broken process, numerous funding hurdles, and a series self-inflicted delays. However, it has failed to disclose to its readers a blatant conflict of interest involving its president and publisher, D. Mark Singletary.

Mr. Singletary has used his publication to laud LSU Medical School and the controversial LSU/VA medical complex. However, New Orleans City Business  neglects to mention that Mr. Singletary was named to the Board of the LSU Health Sciences Center Foundation, a major stakeholder in the proposed LSU/VA in December of 2006.

Though the paper reported on the appointment when it originally occurred, numerous commentaries published since then, some attributed directly to Mr. Singletary and others to the editorial board in general, have not remarked on the conflict. This is an unavoidable violation of the standards to which purportedly unbiased news organizations adhere.

Consider several examples.

One commentary by Mark Singletary from February, 2009, is called LSU/VA complex set for Mid-City - end of story.

Another from June of 2009 came after moves to protect Lower Mid-City homeowners and businesses from exproriation because of LSU's inability to produce a workable funding mechanism for construction and is called Delays for teaching hospital slow economic pulse.

This one is especially vitriolic and was published just days ago. It is not attributed to Singletary but to the editorial board in general, it would appear. It excoriates State Treasurer John Kennedy for pointing out, accurately, that LSU may be in trouble when it comes to raising money for their proposed medical center because it's operating model relies so heavily on DSH (disproportionate share hospital) funding, a revenue stream that will be eliminated if Congress passes healthcare reform legislation. Kennedy endorses the alternative plan that would build a new facility inside the facade of Charity Hospital because it is less expensive and can be brought online sooner. Kennedy argues this model would be more attractive to lenders because LSU would have have to carry less debt to construct the facility. For this, the City Business editorial says Kennedy's criticism "trashes" New Orleans.

Editorials are opinion pieces. There is nothing objectionable about Mr. Singletary expressing his opinion or publishing his analysis regarding the LSU/VA. However, it is fundamentally misleading when his commentaries are published without disclosing Mr. Singletary's relationship with a major stakeholder in the controversial medical center proposal. Without that conflict noted, readers are implicitly lead to believe that Mr. Singletary is an unbiased observer, which he clearly is not.

We have written to Mr. Singletary for a response and will post it in entirety should one arrive.