Saturday, August 25, 2018

My employee misconduct complaint against Chicago Tribune Standards Editor Margaret Holt -- and a related crowd source inquiry


If I come across factual information in mainstream press reports that I know is false, I do what I can to fix it.

In fact, according to Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple, I may hold the record for published corrections for a single news topic.

That's one reason it bugs me when journalists refuse to publish corrections for straightforward factual errors.

And that's one reason why the other day I filed a misconduct complaint against Margaret Holt, Standards Editor at the Chicago Tribune and a prominent figure in the newspaper business.

The tale starts with a July 16, 2018 Tribune story, Family members of Dr. Henry Heimlich say Red Cross guidance on choking victims could end in death by reporter

about a campaign against the American Red Cross (ARC) launched last month by my sister Janet Heimlich, a journalist/author/nonprofit executive in Austin, Texas, and my brother Phil Heimlich, a former elected official in Cincinnati.

They're on the warpath because the ARC recommends performing back blows along with our dad's namesake maneuver (abdominal thrusts) to respond to a choking emergency.

In my opinion, Ms. Olumhense's story has some serious reportorial problems. (Re: the medical issues, visit my web page for links to related published documents.)

For example, the ARC's current protocol has been in place since 2005, a fact that's not mentioned in her article, so it's unclear if Ms. Olumhense was even aware of that.

If she was, presumably she would have asked Janet and Phil why they waited 13 years to voice their concerns.

Moving right along, here's the problem at hand:

From: Margaret C. Holt <>
To: Peter Heimlich <>
Subject: Tribune follow-up
Date: Mon, 16 Jul 2018 16:37:49 +0000

Mr. Heimlich:
Your email was referred to me for response. The story is straightforward in quoting people about the topic, including a reference to a disagreement between some family members and the Red Cross. There is nothing further beyond what is in the published article.
Margaret Holt
Standards Editor
Since I knew the part of the sentence about the AHA was wrong, I realized Ms. Holt didn't know what she was talking about.

And since she didn't ask what my concerns might be, presumably she didn't care, so I same-day replied:

Would you please provide me with your superior's name and e-mail address?

Thank you for your continued attention and I look forward to your reply.

Cheers, Peter
A week later I hadn't received a reply, so on July 23 I sent a friendly "can you help me?" e- mail to Tribune Managing Editor Peter Kendall who some years ago had capably assisted me with an unrelated editorial problem.

He passed the baton back to Ms. Holt:
Mr. Heimlich,
Thank you for your email.
I am copying Margaret on this so you can share any specific questions or concerns about the story.
She is the appropriate person to handle this.
After thanking him, I e-mailed media representatives at the AHA, NSC, and ACEP and asked for their organizations' positions.

An AHA Vice President e-mailed me this, taken from the organization's current guidelines (my emphasis):
“…chest thrusts, back slaps, and abdominal thrusts are feasible and effective for relieving severe FBAO [Foreign Body Airway Obstruction] in conscious (responsive) adults and children over 1 year of age.
The NSC rep replied that their organization adheres to AHA guidelines.

And an ACEP manager in that organization's communications department e-mailed me that their organization "does not have a formal policy on the Heimlich maneuver."

Based on those e-mails, the Tribune's claim that the three organizations "

Along the way I also identified what may be the source of Ms.

article was apparently triggered by a July 10 e-mail and press release snet by a publicist representing Janet and Phil which included this sentence:
The American Heart Association teaches the Heimlich Maneuver as the only method to be used to save a choking victim, as does the National Safety Council and the American College of Emergency Physicians.