We focus so much on providing local news for our local readers we sometimes forget how much the nation will also tune in to what is happening in Galveston.

And why not?

Where else are you going to find stories like the one about the kids who beat up Barney in the parking lot of a local department store?

What’s next, booing Santa Claus at football games like they do in Philadelphia?

Or the one about the East Texas man who was accused of intentionally driving a $1.5 million Bugatti Veyron into Galveston Bay to collect the $2.2 million in insurance on it?

They don’t have bodies of water big enough to drive cars into in East Texas? You need to come to the coast to pull that off?

Or the one about the cross-dressing man who was accused of killing his neighbor, dismembering the neighbor’s body, dumping the remains in the bay and at trial successfully argued he was not guilty because it was self-defense? I mean, you can’t make this stuff up, really.

The most recent example, although certainly not in the same sensational vein as the examples above, is the story about the vial containing a potentially deadly virus that went missing at the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Galveston National Laboratory.

When our story published a week ago, it was featured on The Drudge Report and other popular news aggregation sites. As a result, our website traffic surged by four times our daily norm.

Of the Top 10 stories read on our site in the past 30 days, the UTMB virus story is the most popular by a more than 60 percent margin.

There are two points I’d like to make here.

First, it’s interesting to me and should be interesting to you that so many people all over the nation want to know what in the world is going on in Galveston, which I’m beginning to believe gets more national press than any other town with a population of 47,000 in the country.

Second, this is a story that might have never been told.

Even though the public could have potentially been in danger from the virus contained in the missing vial, there is a law on the books that prevents UTMB, despite being a publicly funded entity, from being compelled to report the incident ever took place.

So why did administrators decide to come forward with this information instead? Especially when secrecy seems to be the new buzzword with other local government entities, like the city?

Because they promised they would.

When hospital officials pushed for the national laboratory to be located in Galveston, they said they would notify the public if situations endangering public safety ever occurred, and they remained true to their word.

Should the public have a right to know if it is in harm’s way rather than having to depend on UTMB to tell them, as the law currently allows? Absolutely.

Given the institution’s public status and the type of danger the work being done at the lab represents, it is incredible to me this kind of exemption exists under the law.

With that being said, UTMB officials have done the right thing here when they didn’t have to, and it’s appropriate to acknowledge that fact and encourage them to continue to remain true to their word should any situations arise in the future.

Especially when not only we, but the whole country, are watching.

Patrick Graham is president and publisher of The Daily News.

(1) comment

Lars Faltskog

Well, 2 thoughts here in response to this article. First, events like this have a way of always surfacing - with iPHONES, quick access to shooting cameras or taking videos, and all-around more willingness for people in public to bring up controversey just for the heck of it these days. Stool pidgeons run amuck. Many folks hope their rants make it on YouTube, etc. So, it behooved UTMB to report the incident, b/c if they didn't, someone else on the outside most certainly would have anyway.

Then, we have the old "how interesting that Galveston made it in national news" statements. That's all well and good, but for each single occasion that a national TV news show or national newspaper mentioned Galveston in the report, there likely were 4 other media venues that simply said it "happened in Texas". No mention on Galveston. I saw such a show - it was ABC news. They didn't say "UTMB Galveston", only Texas. Seems like folks throughout the country, when they think of Texas - when they mention a municipality - seem to look first at Dallas or San Antonio. Much less Houston, and certainly not Galveston. Another example - the early AM morning news on ABC's weather - shows only Dallas on the TX weather map. Houston and Galveston "dont' exist".

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