News of the Day: Learning Some Lessons FROM THE NEWSROOM By Jason Schaff Believe it or not, reporters and editors like good news. Sure, it’s fun to write about the scandals, hard times and drama often found in bad news. But it’s good to also find success stories both about people and about companies. I’ve got an urge for some good news right now. We’ve got some interesting news in this issue of the Business Journal thanks to the great reporting and writing of our editorial staff. But as I often do, I took an inventory of the mix of good vs. bad news on the front page of our paper a few hours ago and it was discouraging. There’s no clearly “good” news story there at least on the surface. There’s the clearly bad news of a company employing 350 people in Simi Valley that wants to move to Arizona to escape what its executives feel are the oppressive business conditions that exist in California with the big one still being high workers’ compensation costs despite an attempt by some state officials to address the situation. The company’s officials just don’t see any major relief in the near future to help them out. We’ve got an accompanying story talking about the “red” teams that have been activated a lot lately to help companies try to stay here. But these teams only have a 50 percent success ratio. Far too low given the fact that jobs and the economic health of the area are at stake. Then there’s our centerpiece story on Page 1 that details how the most recent announced closure of a hospital in the Valley will shake out. The closure may make the operations of the remaining hospitals more efficient but that remains to be seen. No matter what, mostly poor people dependent on health care are thrown more uncertainty about whether they will get the best care quickly. The story clearly shows that the Valley’s health care system is undergoing a wrenching transition where the hospitals themselves are working furiously to keep up with fewer dollars, tougher laws and more and more people looking for care. Economic benefits Finally, the other front-page story relates how local public companies, although reporting much-improved financials, aren’t putting this good fortune back into the economy with increased capital expenditures or other spending. No wonder that big economic improvement that’s been predicted for many months now really hasn’t kicked in fully. These front-page stories are stories of trouble and change. But hopefully we can learn from it all and in the long term things will be better. I say that because there’s actually some good stuff in all these stories if you dig deep enough. For example, take the red teams that are activated when companies are having problems. Sure, they’re being formed and sent out on a far too regular basis but that shows there’s a laser-beam focus on keeping businesses in the area. It’s a priority, as it should be. And the local people on these teams, from power company officials to economic development officials to city officials all are trying their best to keep the businesses here. But their jurisdiction is limited. Once again, Sacramento is the problem. Many of the complaints local business have are state issues. Right now, the local officials who finally realize that we’re bleeding too many companies here, are doing some good work trying to stem the flow. Out-of-touch Sacramento still fiddles away. Gov. Schwarzenegger seems to be trying but it’s not fast enough for some businesspeople who have waited far too long. The health care story about hospitals coping with the demise of one of their own has some good news to it, believe it or not. Valley Presbyterian and Catholic Healthcare West have been working for months to try to make the closure of the Sherman Way campus of Northridge Hospital Medical Center as smooth as possible. That’s good cooperation that may ultimately help the patient. Business decisions As for the story about companies not sharing their wealth these days, that’s got some good in it, too. It’s a sound business decision in what still are very uncertain times. It’s a case of clear thinking. So, how’s that for putting a good twist on bad news. I should be one of those “spin” people you see in political campaigns. No, I’m just trying to put it all into perspective and trying to learn from it. Maybe that’s naive, but so be it. Naivete is good if it makes you look at how things should be rather than how they are. Don’t get me wrong. Our editorial staff is not naive in the general sense. We cover the news as it is and present the bad with the good. What we have on the front page is the news of the day. On the surface, it’s not always good. But hopefully it will lead to something good. Business Journal Editor Jason Schaff can be reached at (818) 316-3125.