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Lindy Washburn-A journalistic puppet ?

A story published in a New Jersey tabloid, The Bergen Record, on November 17th 2013 written by Lindy Washburn is an unfortunate example of the desperate levels to which New Jersey print journalism is stooping as it attempts to survive the digital onslaught of

bloggers. The competition for readers with sensationalist headlines and factually incompetent stories is understandable from a business strategy perspective but the abrogation of duty to report responsibly has the same societal consequences as those of intended political propaganda campaigns.Considering the potential societal impact of their literary contributions should journalists be required to possess a licence in the same way all citizens driving the potentially lethal

weapon of a car must ? Substance for consideration.The genesis and natural history of any newspaper story provides some insight into

understanding the tone, content and structure of the article. Lindy Washburn contacted Kelley Blevins, the communications director for Dr.Richard Arjun Kaul,MD in July 2013 to request an interview with the well known Indian minimally invasive spine surgery pioneer about his legal battle with the New Jersey Medical Board and assured Blevins that her story would fairly represent the professional turf wars underpinning the suspension of the license of Dr.Kaul. Blevins conducted his due diligence on the writer and then subsequently met with her for a face to face interview in Manhattan during which the issue of court transcription fraud was discussed with Lindy Washburn communicating her discovery of significant differences between the transcripts provided by the court appointed stenographer and the

independent stenographer retained by Dr.Kaul. Washburn requested a face to face interview with Dr.Kaul at his Medicare, AAAHC certified surgical center in Pompton Lakes. August 29th Washburn accompanied by a photographer from The Bergen Record arrived

at the surgical center and is given a guided tour of the state of the art surgical facility by Dr.Kaul and Blevins. Photographs of the sophisticated operating room and advanced minimally invasive spine surgical equipment are taken with both Washburn and her

photographic assistant expressing their surprise at the technical complexity of the center which in their words ‘completely contradicts the image portrayed in the media by the New Jersey attorney general”. They spend about 30 minutes walking around the medicare

certified 4000 sq foot facility and then a three hour in depth interview commences during which Dr.Kaul answers questions about both his personal and professional life describing in painstakingly honest detail the case of Isatu Bangura in the UK in 1999 and his subsequent return to the US in 2001.

The interview progresses to further questioning about The Spine Turf Wars with Dr.Kaul detailing his extensive education and training in the fields of general surgery, anesthesiology, interventional pain and minimally invasive spine surgery. Washburn specifically asks Dr.Kaul his speciality to which he responds that he is a Minimally

Invasive Spine Surgeon. The discussion moves to the issue of whether minimally invasive spine surgery should be performed in hospitals or ambulatory surgical centers with Dr.Kaul stating that the post operative spine surgery infection rate, which is one of

the main contributors to elevated healthcare costs, is three times higher in hospitals. The politics and business of New Jersey healthcare, particularly in light of the pending implementation of Obamacare, is an issue Dr.Kaul states has as a consequence of his case been brought into the international spotlight.

The questioning continues with Washburn demonstrating a not unexpected ignorance of the finer points of minimally invasive spine surgery which Dr.Kaul repeatedly and patiently addresses giving the veteran journalist an abbreviated medical education.

Regardless none of these relevant details see the light of day in her subsequent November 17th lengthy article which significantly contained no reference to Dr.Robert Heary the UMDNJ neurosurgeon accused of coercing patient Frances Kuren to file the complaint

with the medical board that resulted in the suspension of Dr.Kaul’s license. When asked about the fact that an arrest warrant had been issued for Heary due to his continued ignoring of court subpoenas Dr.Kaul responded that Heary is a “coward” which Washburn omitted from the article.

The interview lasts approximately three hours and at the conclusion Washburn without warning pulls out a voice recorder and states that she has just recorded the entire conversation without properly obtaining the permission of Dr.Kaul beforehand. The deception and illegal recording of the interview provided the most telling intention of the journalist which, as the subsequent article proved, was not to write a fair and balanced story. Subsequent e mail requests are made by Blevins to Washburn to obtain a copy of the recording but she refuses to send a copy of the lengthy interview, most likely out of

fear it would contradict her tainted article.

The story was released 3 weeks before the administrative law judge, Howard Solomon, issued his opinion and it can be reasonably assumed there was an intention to taint the ruling. A glaring omission from the article was the issue of court transcript fraud which

Washburn discussed with Dr.Kaul and about which he has sent numerous unanswered letters to Solomon and Christie.

Why Washburn would run the risk of ruining her reputation is open to speculation and any explanation might include her own very personal feelings about her interaction with Dr.Kaul which must have motivated her to write about his laceless shoes and slightly frayed wallet. The irrelevant reporting of such personal detail talks more pointedly to an

unrequited need.

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