Monday, December 9, 2013

Dept. of Corrections: Will the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette fix errors in an 11-year-old article about a shady Chicago nonprofit? And was UPitt's Safar Center a "branch office" of the group?

On March 19, 2002, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published Lessons to take to heart; New program would make CPR and other emergency techniques a course of study in Pennsylvania schools by staff writer Anita Srikameswaran.

The article was about Carol Spizzirri, founder/president of the Save-A-Life Foundation (SALF), and efforts to expand the organization into Pennsylvania, aided by the eminent Peter Safar MD, namesake for the University of Pittsburgh's Safar Center for Resuscitation Research. (Dr. Safar died about a year later -- his New York Times obituary called him "the father of CPR." Incidentally, not long before his death, I exchanged some lively e-mails with him about my father.)

As Sidebar readers know, since November 2006, SALF has been the subject of dozens of media exposes and, per The Hill, has been under investigation by the Illinois Attorney General since 2010. Via the June 26, 2013 Dubuque Telegraph Herald, here's the pointed stick:
Since its establishment in 1993, the foundation pledged to teach school children first aid and emergency response practices. Despite receiving nearly $9 million to fund the program, however, very few records of students being taught have been found.
Along those lines, the 2002 Post-Gazette article included what appears to be pie-in-the-sky claims about how many students had received SALF training plus some factual errors.

Susan Smith (source)
It's never too late to fix the record, so this morning I wrote managing editor Susan Smith to ask if the paper has a "statute of limitations" on publishing corrections.

She promptly invited me to submit information for consideration and wrote that "if a correction is warranted, we will run one."

You can't ask for a better invitation than that, so this afternoon I sent her a letter co-written with my friend Gordon Pratt of Milwaukee.

Gordon is Carol Spizzirri's ex-husband who reportedly divorced her in 1981. In a published letter to the editor, he wrote that he has attempted "to bring to light misrepresentations made by the Save A Life Foundation" since his ex-wife founded the operation in 1993.

As I reported last week, Gordon and I sent a similar letter to the House Leaders of the Pennsylvania Legislature, Senators Mike Turzai and Frank Dermody, requesting their help to clean up similar errors in a House Resolution honoring Spizzirri and her organization.

I don't know how that Resolution came to be, but it happened a month after the publication of the Post-Gazette article.

Click here to download a copy of our corrections request letter in which we also suggested that the Post-Gazette contact the Safar Center to obtain more information about SALF's relationship with the Center which, according to page 6 of the nonprofit's 2003 Annual Report and other records, was a SALF “branch office.”