A Chat with Brendan Monahan

Brendan Monahan from WGGB in Springfield, MA credit – wggb.com

Shortly after my post went up yesterday regarding WGGB Springfield’s story about AMR’s response time in the City of Springfield I received an email from reporter Brendan Monahan who did the story asking me if I wanted to talk about my concerns with the way WGGB depicted emergency response in Springfield, MA.

Even before the story was aired Wednesday night on ABC 40, it had generated quite a buzz mostly on Facebook.  WGGB’s website received close to 400 comments and private messages in response to an inquiry looking for anyone who had waited more than 10 minutes for an ambulance to arrive after calling 9-1-1.  Some of those comments and messages were productive and informative others not so much, but such is the world of social media today.

I had a very productive talk with Brendan lasting about 30 minutes.  The first thing that he wanted to point out was that his intention for this story was in no way to attack or offend any paramedics, EMTs, or anyone else affiliated with the industry.  His intention was to generate discussion about whether or not AMR should add ambulances to the upcoming contract, or if the city should consider making some changes.  He felt that he and the team at WGGB were presenting fact based information utilizing data that they had been given by the City of Springfield, and interviews with some officials with the city.  He acknowledged that the information I highlighted as what I felt to be most important in my response to his story was featured in Wednesday night’s segment, however it might not have been as prominent as I wanted it to be.  He stated, and I agree that as the reporter putting the story together, the structure of that story is his to determine.

I shared with Brendan my feelings about the quality of response in Springfield as compared to other municipalities in the greater Springfield area as well as nationwide.  I tried to stress to Brendan that while 97% is not perfect, it not only exceeds Springfield’s standards, but it is also much better than some of the largest cities in the country, and if put up against other municipalities I felt that it would be a difficult number to top.  Brendan felt that one call that gets a longer response might make a difference to that one person, however I tried to stress to him that while perfection might not be obtainable in this situation, and that unfortunate event might occur, the job done in Springfield is exemplary when compared to industry standards.

In Brendan’s defense, he informed me that he met many roadblocks while putting this story together.  A lot of commenters were critical that WGGB had not done a ride along in the Springfield, however it was not done because their request for one was not granted.  The story, actually, was pushed back three times in an attempt to give equal time to everyone involved to tell their side.  After almost a month’s time WGGB went forward with the information that they had.

It was and still is Brendan’s intention to paint the most accurate picture of ambulance response in Springfield and to share what the system’s issues are but they need the proper support and cooperation to do it.  Let’s hope that the right people step up and give WGGB the opportunity to get a better behind the scenes look at emergency response in Springfield from the EMT and paramedic’s point of view.  While its effect would have been more powerful had it been included in its initial report, I think that Brendan and I both share the opinion that a ride along might be an eye opening experience for everyone involved as well as the viewer.

I would like to thank Brendan for taking the time to contact me and for being as receptive as he was to the points that I made in my post and reinforced to him during our conversation.  I do, however, understand that statements made everyone who commented to WGGB both publicly and privately need to be substantiated, and without the proper cooperation, that is not possible.

The key to any public relations issue is the response to it, and failure to share adequate information and be available for involvement is key.  I will leave it up to each individual reader to decide if that was done.  At this point, I am hoping to hear more from the media in the near future with the rest of the story.

  • Michael C. Tourjee

    Based on my experience dealing with the press in different jobs and places, I am not confident that “more information” would move a reporter to present a balanced picture if the sensational detail can be exploited. If a 97% on time response rate doesn’t convince him I don’t think he (or his editors) want to be convinced.

  • H Mullen

    If wggb wanted to investigate whether or not there’s a need for more ambulances or a second service or another service provider for the City of Springfield, then they should have investigated how often AMR is in need of mutual aid. That would show whether or not additional ambulances are needed. When response time is questioned wggb needs to investigate when AMR turns a call over to mutual aid what the response time is for the mutual aid ambulance. I’m sure, this scenario puts the response time over the 10 minutes.