I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
News organizations should help us decipher health care reform
I was putting the finishing touches on a comment about how hard it is to grasp the complexities of health insurance reform when the voices of KUNM reporter Jim Williams and Senator Jeff Bingaman seized my attention. They were elucidating the insurance exchange idea. And I learned something.
This was a small miracle, given the complexity of the subject and Bingaman’s propensity for wonk-talk. His op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal Oct. 9 was so dull I struggled to finish it.
At least the Senator means well, which cannot be said of axe grinders who intentionally misrepresent what’s happening to confuse us further.
Take, for example, a recent robo-call, the kind of educational message I am privileged to receive because I’m a senior and a member of a “Medicare Advantage” plan at an Albuquerque HMO.
The news was dire. Health reformers want to rob me of my coverage. The caller, from the “Coalition for Medicare Choice,” urged that I chastise my Senators, Bingaman and Udall. And I could get right to them, tout de suite. “Just press 7.”
This fear mongering might victimize a more trusting senior, but I’m a devout skeptic. This sounded like an industry front; sure enough, a Web search confirmed that the Coalition “is administered by” America’s Health Insurance Plans—the insurance company lobby.
Thus is the complexity of health reform compounded by insurers, pharmaceutical and medical equipment manufacturers and even some doctors —all bent on clouding our minds.
And here’s where news organizations with time and resources could ride to the public’s rescue by mastering the material and conveying it succinctly. They could. Most do not.
That was Jon Stewart’s point the other night when he eviscerated CNN. He first noted that while CNN was busy fact-checking Saturday Night Live – yes, it’s true! – the cable network let Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) get away with a big, fat misstatement about the cost of reform.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|CNN Leaves It There|
Stewart’s larger point was that CNN initiated interviews on health reform only to bail out of the segments before clearing anything up.
In a classic Daily Show montage, anchor after anchor could be heard saying, “Sorry, but we’ll have to leave it there,” with basic questions left on the table, dangling, unresolved.
And the excuse was untrue. They didn’t have to leave it – cable channels have 24 hours daily to fill. The real reason – producers figure viewers won’t sit still for lengthy segments. And keeping viewers is the job.
CNN isn’t alone in failing to inform. A week after the Coalition’s scary robo-call, the CBS Evening News reported a surprise development. On the eve of a Senate Finance Committee vote, health insurers had reversed course! Now they opposed even the (wimpy) Baucus bill.
Wrong! The industry had long been lobbying against reform even while sweet-talking the White House. Now if CBS got that simple story wrong, I wouldn’t trust their take on the intricacies of reform, which they’re not tackling anyway.
We forget at our peril that broadcasting and narrowcasting – the networks, local stations and cable – exist neither to solve society’s problems nor even to perpetrate journalism.
The news they present is bait to attract an audience. Their parent corporations sell the audience to advertisers. Revenues show up in quarterly reports to Wall Street as “earnings.” If they’re good enough and likely to persist, investors will buy company shares, thereby enriching the corporation and its top executives.
That’s the purpose of broadcast corporations.
It’s also one reason we’re ignorant these days despite swimming in information-dense seas. And it’s reason to sympathize with citizens trying to make sense of health care reform.