A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
I’m not sure where I heard or read this, but, in my lifetime, especially in my career as a journalist, I have found this to be surprisingly true.
And it happens all the time.
People read articles that lay out facts, carefully researched and painstakingly checked and re-checked, but often the reader does not only read what is written.
They read between the lines, and, in a split second, faster than the speed of light, they form their own opinion.
Hence, an article that was published in the Edmonton Journal regarding the Rimbey Hospital sent people adrift on a huge wave of panic.
The public, in a mob mentality, no doubt sparked by the Journal’s publication, and further fanned into flame by social media, were convinced a decision had been made.
The hospital was closing.
I was enjoying a quiet Sunday evening at home after a long week, when my cell phone suddenly began buzzing incessantly like cell phones do, when a text is coming in.
“Did you know the Rimbey hospital is closing?” the text message shouted.
Fortunately, I had already read the article and formed my own opinion. Also, I knew council was discussing the issue, Monday.
But by Monday, the news was on the streets, except, as so often happens in these situations, it was not news at all.
It was a rumour.
In short, people panicked. And in my opinion, they read what wasn’t really there. They read between the lines.
In a letter to several editors in the area, myself included, Margo Goodhand, editor of the Edmonton Journal, pointed out the Journal’s recommendations, though controversial, were presented as ideas to produce a better and more effective health system for taxpayers’ dollars.
I believe Goodhand’s reply to be intelligent, unbiased and factual.
She said the series actually began Dec. 1 and was based on public reports, Alberta Health Services Statistics and government documents obtained through access to information requests.
“This is not an exact science, but we did the best we could with the data we had. The point of the story was to get a needed discussion going in this province that the politicians don’t seem to want to have and haven’t for decades,” she said.
To me, that makes sense.
And, realistically, the Journal achieved just that.
This week, the Rimbey Review is full of letters, press releases and quickly penned together opinions from politicians who quickly used the written word to clearly mark their turf around the brick and mortar walls of the town’s beloved hospital.
As editor, I am in favour of allowing each and every politician to have their say and come up with their own unique, picturesque quotes about how important it is to save our hospital.
I say, good for them, but, on the other hand, I believe they are using this article to further nail the planks of their political platform more firmly into place and using the opportunity to jump on a bandwagon made up mostly of emotion.
The public needs to remember the real issue at hand, and arm themselves with facts.
Presently, one fact seems crystal clear.
The Rimbey Hospital & Care Centre is very much alive and well. And, at least for today, there are no plans in the works to change that scenario.
No one, however, can predict the future.
And that, unfortunately, is another fact!