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Private Ears: Media access to 911 tapes raises press freedom issues.
Unmanaged Care: Collaboration needed between MDs, therapists.
News Briefs:   Liberal Media Bias Debunked | PETA Undercover | Tolerance Grant | Coming Up
Happening People: Ruth Koenig, volunteer.


Private Ears
Media access to 911 tapes raises press freedom issues.
By Thia Bell

Media replay of 911 emergency calls in Oregon could hang up for good if lawmakers drill another hole in the state public records law. Privacy advocates say frightened calls for help don't belong on radio or TV where young ears are exposed to raw anguish and families are forced to relive wrenching trauma. Opponents say the recordings are needed to balance police reports in civil investigations, for the media to play watchdog and for criminal defense teams to obtain evidence as easily as prosecutors.

Sealing off the audio recordings from all but police, district attorneys and the callers or their agents is supported by dispatchers, emergency responders, survivors, their families and district attorneys. That measure, House Bill 2436, is likely to be merged with a close cousin, HB 2487, which opens a crack for anyone else to prove a "clear and convincing" reason for releasing the voice tape.

Both measures would allow access to the full transcript of a call, just not the sound recording, points out Rep. Steve March (D-Portland). March, a professor with a doctorate in public affairs, introduced HB 2436 with Sen. Peter Courtney (D-Salem/Keizer), a veteran lawyer-legislator. He says Multnomah County citizens had complained to their county commissioners about a 911 tape from a swimming pool drowning. It was aired on each evening newscast and then replayed frequently during a ratings sweeps week. "The family kept reliving their pain, over and over," March says. "We're trying to protect people from hearing their own anguish."

The First Amendment freedoms should apply less in this debate than the Fourth Amendment right to privacy, March says. The recordings are of private calls for help, even if they draw on public services paid by telephone tax surcharges and other funds. People are captive to the system and shouldn't be victimized for using it, he says. Playing the tapes is an invasion of their privacy. "In the old days, they'd call the operator to get help, or a neighbor. But we've conditioned people to call 911 now for 30 years."

Ken Kein, manager of Oregon's 911 Program in the Oregon State Police Office of Emergency Management, says the department probably will support the privacy move. No position was taken by late January. "Oregon is basically a sunshine state," he said, "but I personally can't take a positive view of personal tragedy played over and over on TV."

Trial lawyers say they are still studying the privacy measures, while the Oregon Association of Licensed Investigators recently decided it would oppose HB 2436. "It's a bad bill," said lobbyist and investigator Tom Mann of Salem. Private or court-appointed investigators seldom get equal treatment to police when records are closed, which tips the scales of justice more toward a police state.

"I find it very troubling that they want to make it more and more difficult to provide oversight of these agencies," said Bill Lioio, a Eugene investigator and public records advocate. "People need to know what their emergency service providers are doing and what they are saying to people who call. They should deal with the narrow issue of abuse instead of making a sweeping rule that takes rights away from everybody."

The March-Courtney measure exempts from disclosure any audio recording of an emergency call without the caller's consent. If the caller is unable to consent, the parent, spouse, guardian or other legal agent can give consent. Public scrutiny of outgoing dispatch recordings would not be affected, just the handling of incoming calls.

"We're studying the bill," says Eugene newspaper reporter Diane Dietz, who chairs the Freedom of Information Committee for the Greater Oregon Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

"Anytime you're closing off journalists and broadcasters from public records that would shed light on a public agency's operations, it's not a good situation," she says. "Journalists rely on that information to ascertain if an agency has acted correctly in an emergency dispatch situation. That's an important way the media serves the public."

A high-profile street beating in Philadelphia several years ago stirred interest in the 911 tapes. Citizens had logged 20 calls to get help for the victim while the call-takers were hostile and yelling back at them. By the time help arrived 41 minutes after the first call, Eddie Polec was dead. A national outcry helped upgrade an old dispatching system and retrain staff.

The industry has high standards for certifying and self-monitoring, says Clay Flowers, president of the combined Oregon chapter of the American Public Safety Officers and National Emergency Number Association. Flowers says he does not know of any other state where 911 tapes are not released to media.

"The privacy concept has been discussed for several years now," says Flowers. "Say someone who is HIV-positive calls and has to reveal that for emergency response, does that give the media a right to air that to everyone?"

The Silverton director of the Santiam 911 District says the tapes might not actually identify the person very well, or even their address since the enhanced 911 system in Oregon uses a form of caller ID, but other records lead to people's identity.

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Unmanaged Care
Collaboration needed between MDs, therapists.
By Elizabeth Pownall

Therapists and doctors in Eugene once had somewhat of a comfortable relationship -- physicians referring patients to therapists, therapists easily accessing physicians -- but those days are gone.

Because of managed care, many physicians and therapists say, the once consistent relationship they enjoyed is now fragmented. Their access is blocked by the amount of paperwork each has to do for the insurance companies, by the limitation of visits a patient may have with a therapist, and by issues of confidentiality.

A change in an insurance health plan can mean a change in a client's therapist, as the therapist may no longer be on the insurance panel. This is a problem, especially with the advent of the new antidepressant medications, the selected serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.

Research has shown that optimal treatment for depression includes drug therapy and psychotherapy. Primary care physicians, or family doctors, internists, obstetrician-gynecologists and pediatricians, are more likely to prescribe the medication, yet because of the lack of integration in the community, and because of the proliferation of new doctors, physicians are experiencing difficulty in referring to therapists.

Physicians have trouble knowing who to refer their patients to, says Carol Green, LCSW, and there is also an emphasis on medication from the insurance companies. "When therapists need authorization to continue treatment, they must indicate whether medication has been considered as part of the treatment plan. It is strongly suggested by managed care insurance as an option in conjuction with therapy," she said.

"Physicians sometimes don't want to explore difficult emotional issues because of the constraints on their time," says Dr. William Balsom, family practice physician. "There is a big change with the new antidepressants which has affected psychologists and family doctors equally," he says.

"Primary care is the foundation of the mental health system in the United States," writes Dr. Mack Lipkin, Jr., director of the Division of Primary Care in the Department of Medicine at New York University Medical Center in his article, "Psychiatry and Primary Care: Two Cultures Divided." "It accounts for the most patients seen, drugs prescribed ... and the cases of mental disorder treated." There is a cultural difference between the medical and mental health communities, he says.

There is a need for collaboration between the two communities, says Dr. Steve Marks, medical director of Medical Affairs at Pacific Source Insurance Company. "I think the public should be able to look at it as a continuum 4 if they go to the primary care provider and have a disorder, there could be a transition into a mental health provider office or support service."

Out of the 19 million people diagnosed with depression, one third of these patients will seek therapy, according to research done by the National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI). A gap exists between the primary care provider's office and the therapist's office. "I think we need to close that gap," Marks says. "The paradigms we've used until now have enforced that there are two separate spheres out there, mental health and medical ... these two spheres have increased a separateness."

It is so easy to take a pill, but "it takes a lot of courage to see a therapist," says Alice Duffy, LCSW in Eugene.

"It's frustrating," admits Dr. Cristin Babcock, obstetrics gynecologist. "You can't just prescribe a pill and you get better. There's got to be some work around it, too ... the pill will be the crutch to get you to the next piece -- how are you going to change it so you have the ability to get happy?"

"I think it is hard in this town for people to get into counselors," she went on. "There's not a good network between physicians who would prescribe the drugs and the counselors, whether that's a licensed clinical social worker or a Ph.D."

Since the advent of the SSRIs, the treatment of depression has changed a great deal, say local doctors and therapists. Physicians no longer need to see patients as often as they once did with the older, more high-maintenance antidepressants. Patients feel better, and are better able to cope with their current situations once on medication.

In order to truly interface the medical and mental health communities, says Dr. Rupert Goetz, medical director of the Office of Mental Health Services for the state of Oregon, "Communication across the specialties is key ... Each must see through the other's eyes." 



EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is a follow-up to Elizabeth Pownall's Feb. 1 cover story on depression.

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Liberal Bias Debunked
Author and journalist Jeff Cohen packed the pews Monday, Feb. 12 debunking the "myth of liberal bias" in U.S. mainstream media. The event at Central Presbyterian Church in Eugene drew an estimated 150 people and included films and information booths.

 
Jeff Cohen blasts mainstream media in Eugene Feb. 12.
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Cohen says reporters, columnists and TV political pundits are often given a liberal label by conservative politicians and corporate leaders, but in fact the opposite is true.

"If the media were truly liberal," Cohen says, we'd see numerous and prominent stories about "the bloated military budget," the implications of free trade policies, corporate welfare, and "the tax shift from the wealthy to the poor."

Cohen says we have been subjected to so much "sleazy content" and public relations passing as news that "most Americans don't know what a progressive stands for."

"American people want serious news," he says. "They want real news that affects their lives."

He blames the lack of substantive, balanced investigative reporting to consolidation, corporate influence, advertiser pressure and intimidation. The majority of media outlets are now owned and controlled by just half a dozen corporations. Producers, publishers and editors are not allowed to investigate their owners and advertisers, and reporters considered "too liberal and doing too good of a job" can find themselves unemployed. Self-censorship takes over in such an environment, he says.

Cohen is founder of Fairness in Accuracy & Reporting (FAIR), which runs a website, www.fair.org, and publishes a magazine, Extra. FAIR observes and documents trends and patterns in national media (including public broadcasting) and has found that: 1) most newspaper endorsements favor Republican candidates, 2) the Washington press corp is more conservative than the population at large, 3) conservatives are the dominant voice in talk radio, syndicated columns and TV pundit shows, and 4) most of the sources quoted in national news stories are conservative, anti-labor and pro-corporation.

What are the solutions? Cohen sees hope in pro-democracy movements, such as the massive uprising against the World Trade Organization in Seattle. He also supports the growth of alternative media, using the Internet to organize, giving feedback to journalists about their coverage, teaching "media literacy," and using "shame and embarrassment" to force media to change.

"At FAIR, we don't just mourn, we organize," he says.

The event was sponsored by Eugene Media Action, Eugene Weekly and Northwest Project, Institute for Public Accuracy. EMA's next meeting is 7 pm Feb. 19 at Growers Market, 454 Willamette.4 TJT


Undercover
Matt Rossell, one of PETA's (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) top three undercover investigators of animal rights abuses, is scheduled to speak at 7 pm Wednesday, Feb. 21 at the EMU's Rogue Room at UO.

Rossell began his career as an undercover researcher while working as a security guard at Boys Town National Research Hospital in Omaha, Neb. He discovered a litter of kittens with bisected heads, subjects of research into congenital deafness. The experience prompted him to contact the animal rights advocacy group, PETA. Mary Beth Sweetland, PETA's research head, asked him to go undercover. In 1995, armed with a video camera and notepad, he went back to Boys Town. Rossell collected enough information to file a complaint, alleging violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Although the employees at Boys Town were eventually cleared of allegations, Rossell succeeded in shutting down the laboratory for six months.

Between 1995 and 1997, Rossell did undercover research on illegal white tiger dealers in Arkansas, Walker Bros. Circus in Tennessee for mistreatment of elephants, and Aeschleman's Fur Company in Illinois for mistreatment of foxes. As quoted in Willamette Week (2/7), Sweetland says, "I wish I could clone him," and credits Rossell as one of PETA's best investigators in the organization's 21-year history.

Rossell told WW he became disenchanted with PETA after media rejected his research because of his association with the organization. But he continued spying on his own. In 1998, he accepted a job with the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland. OHSU has been the subject of repeated protests of the center's use of 1,000 singly-caged rhesus monkeys. Rossell found evidence that the federally mandated "environmental-enrichment program" was not working and that the male rhesus monkeys were being subjected to a reportedly painful process known as "penile electro-ejaculation" for obtaining sperm samples. 4 JS


Tolerance Grant

Eugene's Temple Beth Israel Preschool and Kindergarten has received a $1,100 grant from the Southern Poverty Law Center. The grant was awarded under SPLC's Teaching Tolerance Project, which gives grants to K-12 classroom teachers for implementing tolerance projects in their schools and communities.

TBI will use the monies to expand its multi-cultural learning materials 4 books, puzzles, etc. 4 to enhance anti-bias education in its preschool and kindergarten programs.

SPLC looked at several factors in determining which organizations would receive funds. One was the acceptance of diversity and peacemaking efforts of the group. TBI offers a Jewish-based curriculum but is inclusive of all people. Of the 50 or so families with children who attend the Wee School (ages 2 1/2 to 3 1/2), preschool (ages 3 1/2 to 5), and kindergarten (ages 5 to 6), a variety of religions and nationalities are represented. Languages spoken at home of the enrolled children include Portuguese, Norwegian, Italian, Swiss German, Arabic, French, Spanish, ASL, Hebrew, and Chinese.

The diversity of the student body is honored, while at the same time commonalities are emphasized.

"Anti-bias goals are central to our work," says TBI Director Bonnie Robbins. The children are taught to get along with each other, listen to each other and develop conflict resolution skills.

This year, the school has implemented a new program called "Second Step," which includes empathy training, impulse control and anger management.

Teachers pay close attention to see that children treat each other fairly and they address small matters that are related to bigger issues. "Not allowing boys to come into the clubhouse, or saying you don't like somebody because their eyes look mean" are some of the situations Robbins says teachers pay close attention to.

"You can say 'I don't want you to hit me again' but you can't say 'I don't ever want to play with you again,'" says Robbins.

Another aspect of the program the project wanted to see addressed was the community service the organizations provided.

To that end, TBI is offering its list of non-biased materials to other organizations. Robbins found some of the titles on a comprehensive list compiled by Mother Kali's bookstore; she found others while attending a national conference and she is seeing that that information is distributed through the preschool director's organization in town.

The funds were also granted for materials suited to specific needs of particular learners. In this case, all of the materials used by the children and all the images shown to the children, including dolls, posters, books and puzzles, are multi-cultural and non-biased.

Robbins calls TBI's mission, which includes teaching kids a more inclusive view of people and helping them break down stereotypes, "some of the most important work we can do in fighting for a fairer world for all people." 4 AS


Coming Up
Late winter always brings a slate of high-powered speakers, workshops and conferences to Eugene. Check our Calendar section each week for details. Meanwhile, here are a few highlights:

* William Strauss, co-author of Millennials Rising, Encore Theater, and Eugene Opera will explore the new generation of 18-year-olds from 7 to 9 pm Sunday, Feb. 18, at Churchill High School Auditorium on Bailey Hill Road. Eugene Opera will be performing songs from a new teen musical about this generation written by Strauss. Tickets at the door at $1 for students $5-$10 for adults.

* Marshall Rosenberg, creator of the process known alternately as Compassionate Communication and Non-violent Communi-cation, and author of the book Non-violent Communication: A Language of the Heart, will be presenting all-day workshops at Unity of the Valley in Eugene Feb. 23 and 24 and a free introductory evening Feb. 23.

* Registration is now available for the 18th Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the UO School of Law March 1-4. More than 3,000 students, attorneys, activists and scientists from all over the world are expected to attend. Keynote speakers include Ward Churchill, Terry Tempest Williams, Julia Butterfly Hill, David Korten and justice Paul Stein. The new website this year is www.pielc.uoregon.edu/info.html

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Ruth Koenig
In 1964, following her first year as a PE teacher in Shelton, Wash., Ruth Koenig worked as a civil rights volunteer in Mississippi. "I was there for the month of July 4 it was intense," she recalls. "It set the tone for the rest of my life." Koenig came to Eugene in 1966 to further her education, then taught for seven years at Monroe Junior High. She became coordinator of community education at Lincoln School in 1974. "It was the heyday of community school programs," she says. "We started the community gardens on North Polk, began a recycling project 4 we had pre-schools, day care, and senior activities." Koenig has been active in Central American relief activities since the Contra War of the '80s 4 last summer she traveled to Nicaragua to help rebuild a hurricane-ravaged village. When budget cuts felled community ed in 1994, Koenig found a new calling as coordinator of Eugene's Stream Team, harnessing volunteer labor for water-quality improvement projects. "There were 4,000 to 5,000 people involved in the five years I was there," she estimates. "It was wonderful."

-- Paul Neevel

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