Journalist Death Gets Mount Sinai Scathing Rebuke

On Jan. 13, Mike Hurewitz-a longtime reporter for the New York Post who spent the last eight

years at The Times Union of Albany -died

at Mount Sinai Hospital following surgery to donate part of his liver to

his ailing brother.

Two months later, on March 12, the New York State Department of

Health faulted Mount Sinaiin Mr. Hurewitz’s death. The D.O.H. charged Mount

Sinai with 18 violations and $48,000 in fines for what it deemed inadequate

post-operative care, and banned the hospital from performing liver transplants

from live donors for six months. The

Times Union itself broke the story of the D.O.H.’s findings.

Both The Times Union

and the D.O.H. said the fact that Mr. Hurewitz was a reporter had nothing to do

with the state’s action following his death. But long before the state

announced its penalty for Mount Sinai, there was communication between the

health department’s highest-ranking official and the newspaper-and an explicit

acknowledgment that the D.O.H. was on the case.

Two days after Mr. Hurewitz’s death, on Jan. 15, The Times Union ‘s managing editor, Rex

Smith, received a call from Dr. Antonia Novello, the commissioner for the New

York State Department of Health. Ms. Novello had been in The Times Union ‘s offices only a few weeks prior, when she’d spoken

to the paper’s editorial board. Though not a member of the board, Mr. Smith had

sat in on the meeting. Now he was listening to Ms. Novello speak to more

serious concerns as she offered her condolences.

Ms. Novello had read Mr. Hurewitz’s obituary in The Times Union , and the D.O.H. had

received a report of his death. Though she hadn’t known Mr. Hurewitz, Ms.

Novello liked his work she said.

Once she’d finished speaking, Ms. Novello remembered Mr. Smith

asking, “What are you doing about it?”

“I don’t remember saying it,” Mr. Smith said when a reporter

asked him to recollect the conversation. “But it’s something I would have

asked. I’ve spent more of my life as a reporter than an editor. It’s a logical

question to ask the head of a regulatory agency: what you’re going to do about

a regulatory problem.”

That day, the hospital had voluntarily suspended its transplant

program. The following day, Jan. 16, the D.O.H. sent investigators to Mount

Sinai.

At the time of his death, Mr. Hurewitz was 57 years old. He died,

the initial reports said, due to complications following transplant surgery

that gave his brother Adam 60 percent of his liver. However, on March 12, the

D.O.H. announced that three days after his Jan. 10 surgery, Mr. Hurewitz had

been one of 34 patients in the Mount Sinai transplant unit being attended to by

a lone inexperienced resident. Vomiting blood at first, Mr. Cohen would later

inhale and choke on it, losing consciousness at 3:10 p.m. before dying at 3:40

p.m.

After their initial conversation in January, Mr. Smith didn’t

hear from Ms. Novello again until the early afternoon of March 11. But the

paper had been aggressively following the story. The Times Union ‘s  health

reporter, Sylvia Wood, heard from her sources that the D.O.H. was ready to come

down hard on Mount Sinai for Mr. Hurewitz’s death. Indeed, that morning at 11

a.m., the D.O.H. had faxed its findings to the hospital. That day, Ms. Novello

and her staff also met with Mr. Hurewitz’s widow, Victoria, to discuss the

news.

On March 11, Ms. Novello called to tell Mr. Smith the findings of

her department’s investigation. She said they’d be announced in a press

conference in New York the next day. According to Mr. Smith, she described Mr.

Hurewitz’s experience as a “‘Space Odyssey’ operation and a Third World

follow-up.” This meant, he said, that the transplant itself had gone perfectly,

and that it was in the post-operative period that the hospital screwed up.

During the call, Mr. Smith took notes and inserted some of those

quotes into Ms. Wood’s story.  

“These are high-impact quotes from a journalistic standpoint,”

Mr. Smith said, adding, “I think it’s good that an agency head takes personal

interest in an investigation like this.”

Still, neither The Times

Union nor Ms. Novello felt that Mr. Hurewitz’s case had been handled

differently because of his occupation. Ms. Novello said that Mr. Hurewitz’s job

as a reporter was “adjunct to the case” and that the department would have

investigated the matter regardless, since it involved the death of a transplant

patient. A D.O.H. spokesperson pointed to the department’s rigor in pursuing

cases of hospital neglect. Ms. Novello also insisted that the paper didn’t

petition on behalf of Mr. Hurewitz’s family.

“We never would have allowed it,” Ms. Novello said.

Jeff Cohen, editor of The

Times Union , put it this way: “We contacted the D.O.H. as reporters; I

didn’t contact them on behalf of Vicki. Now, the D.O.H. did call us, but we

speak to them all the time. We’re Albany. We have a different relationship

because we cover them everyday.”

Further, Mr. Cohen said, it was that relationship-not Mr.

Hurewitz’s relationship to the paper-which allowed The Times Union to break the story on the misconduct of Mount Sinai

on March 12. He said that by the weekend, his reporter had obtained the story

from her sources, and that by Monday, March 11, it was in “good enough shape”

to appear in the next day’s paper. Moreover, Mr. Cohen disputed a claim in the

March 13 issue of The New York Times ,

which stated that Mrs. Hurewitz had given The

Times Union the D.O.H. report.

“The Times story was

incorrect,” Mr. Cohen said. “We didn’t get that information from Vicki. We

don’t know where they got that.”

Ms. Hurewitz did not return a call for comment in this matter;

and when reached, The Times ‘ Denise

Grady, who wrote the story, said: “My understanding was that the report was

given to [Ms. Hurewitz] over the weekend by Novello, and it was her choice to

give The Times Union an exclusive

since [Mr. Hurewitz] worked there, and she had great ties and loyalties to the

place. I could have misunderstood.”     

No one at The Times Union

took any pleasure in the paper’s scoop, however. A gross act of negligence had

been uncovered, but a news operation had lost one of its most beloved

reporters, a wife had lost a husband, and a man had lost his only brother.

“He was really a mensch ,”

Mr. Cohen said of Mr. Hurewitz. “He was someone we wanted other reporters to

emulate. We’d sit young reporters down next to him so they’d follow his

example. He was a selfless, decent man, and he died being selfless and decent.

It’s hard for me to think of any good to come from this.”

-Sridhar Pappu

Now that it’s held two memorial services for Daniel

Pearl, The Wall Street Journal is planning a more permanent tribute to the

slain journalist.

This summer, The Journal, in conjunction with the Free

Press publishing house, will release an anthology of Mr. Pearl’s reporting.

Edited by Mr. Pearl’s friend and WSJ

reporter Helene Cooper, the book will include 50 of his pieces from his time in

the United States and abroad, with an introduction by his widow, Mariane. All

profits will go to the Daniel Pearl Memorial Trust established by Dow Jones,

the paper’s parent company.

During his tenure at The

Journal , Mr. Pearl wrote 47 front-page stories and 47 stories that appeared

on the cover of the paper’s Marketplace section. WSJ deputy managing editor Stephen Adler said the book will try to

touch on all aspects of Mr. Pearl’s career, including stories on child beauty

pageants in Georgia and on an Iranian town making the world’s largest carpet.

“Reading them,” Mr. Adler said, “you get the sense of someone

sick of authority, someone who’s ironic and who’s got a sense of humor.”

In addition, the anthology will feature anecdotes from editors

and co-reporters on the stories, and will likely include the e-mail

correspondence that Mr. Pearl had with his WSJ

colleagues.

“We wanted it not just to be a record of his writing,” Mr. Adler

said, “but of what his life was like at The

Journal , and what it was like working with him.”

-S.P.

After some months of

cryptic feints, The New York Sun decided

to lift the veil on its plans with a pair of press releases on March 19

describing the five-day-a-week paper. Here’s what we now know:

The Sun will publish

its first issue on Tuesday, April 16. The paper, which will cost 50 cents on

the newsstand, will have nine pages of copy a day and- The Sun hopes-three to nine more pages of ads. The Sun will print 60,000 copies at first and distribute them to

newsstands in all five boroughs. Subscriptions for home and office delivery are

available at $125 a year, though the paper didn’t say what its delivery area

will be.

The Sun also announced

the names of 25 people who will be filling its pages. Most will be contributors

to the paper, such as the 11 editorial-page columnists, including Raymond

Joseph, co-editor of the Brooklyn-based Haiti

Observateur ; John Avlon, speechwriter to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani; as

well as Cooper Union professor Fred Siegel and National Review senior editor Richard Brookhiser. (Mr. Siegel and

Mr. Brookhiser are both contributors to The

Observer .) The Sun will also

carry The Daily Telegraph ‘s column by Barbara Amiel, the wife of Sun investor Lord Conrad Black.

The Sun also announced

three editors: Ellen Kampinsky on the news desk, Ellen Umansky for features and

Robert Messenger for arts. Ms. Kampinsky was most recently a senior editor at

the now-defunct Talk . Ms. Umansky

once worked with Mr. Lipsky when he edited The

Forward , and Mr. Messenger is a veteran of The New Criterion . Also hired for the newsroom is Seth Mnookin, who

most recently was a reporter for Inside.com. The Sun has also hired Bill Hammond to be its state correspondent

in Albany; Mr. Hammond most recently covered the capital for the Schenectady Daily Gazette .

Asked if there are any other major editorial hires to make, Mr.

Stoll said he’s still looking for a D.C. correspondent. “I’d say the Washington

job is the big unfilled one at the moment,” he said. Also to come is a lineup

of arts critics still to be determined, but Mr. Stoll said, “There’s plenty of

time between now and when we launch.”

-Gabriel Snyder

In recent weeks, the New

York Post has resurrected those “My Post, My Paper” boxes, with pictures of

professed readers and Joel Siegel–like endorsements of the peppy tabloid. Among

those featured in its Tuesday, March 19, issue was Kristen Jenkins, a

28-year-old finance manager from New York who said the “new color is absolutely

fabulous,” and Orlando Rodriguez, an engineer from New Jersey who liked the …

sports.

Also buttering up the Post:

Ann Coulter. Yes, that Ann

Coulter-the former National Review

Online columnist whose Sept. 13 rant against Muslims (fun excerpt: “invade

their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity”) got her

in hot water and helped cost her a job. 

Ms. Coulter, listed at a flattering 29 years old, said: “I read

Page Six every day. It’s my favorite. And the color is so much better than in The New York Times .”

Ms. Coulter, whom The

Washington Post reported is now dating a Muslim, told Off the Record that

she got hit up for a Post plug while

she was walking into the News Corp. building to tape The O’Reilly Factor .

And true to form, she now wanted to clarify what she’d said. “In

case my implication was unclear,” Ms. Coulter said, “I meant that the New York Post color photos were better

than The New York Times , especially

because they did not accompany articles written by communists.

“Also,” Ms. Coulter said, “in

case you were wondering, when a woman in her 30’s says she is 29, it’s a joke.

I’m a year or two older.” She added: “The press is indignant about the Attorney

General asking Muslim aliens a few questions, but they expect random strangers

to reveal all sorts of personal information to reporters just for the asking.”

-S.P.