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Where Are the Real Journalists?

Our Readers Who Comment have strong opinions this morning about a question Howard Kurtz raises in his media column: why haven't mainstream journalists been able to kill Sarah Palin's "death panel" assertion, which I think continues to poison the health-care reform debate.

On a slow August news day, this column has scored more comments than anything else on the site. Several readers call for journalists to be more direct, and call a lie a lie and a liar a liar. But as Kurtz notes, in the Palin case most media have done just that, although not quite so directly.

The comments also raise valid (and sometimes conflicting) points and perceptions about news media: that we are overly careful about reporting both sides (Rush Limbaugh et al excepted); that we prefer minor but understandable controversies over more complex substantive ones; that Jon Stewart's comedy points more directly to the truth than a balanced news report and, of course, that we are liberal (except for the Post's unforgivable support of the Iraq War, which is raised by the left every day in comments on one story or another).

We'll start with cgijanto who wrote cogently that "The media has been neutralized for two reasons on this challenging topic. 1, health care is so complicated, that its difficult to capture it well in a story that is typically short and to the point, and if one goes into depth, its brings out the complications and loses readers/viewers interest. 2, the media is viewed as overwhelmingly liberal, and giving blind support to the President's concept of reform, and thus are not capturing the news as much as trying to sell his plan."

vit123 said, "A sad truth, Mr. Kurtz, is ordinary folks don't trust MSM anymore! A journalist today is an endangered species: those who assume they still are, actually are propangadists whether on the left or on the right. Very unfortunate..."

su10 wrote, "Excellent report, but it still feels as if the press has focused on the few hundred, maybe few thousand, opponents of reform, and not told the story fo the 46 million (probably more by now) people who don't have coverage. This feels like a real silent majority situation."

sandynh said, "Since main stream journalists... have proven that they are illiterate and so truly liberal as to embrace a politician so brazenly tainted, without qualifications and seemingly swarming with unsavory supporters whose claim to fame is to destroy the United States of America, no wonder they are "left out". The only reason we keep you around is to attack you on a daily basis. It's fun."

To which realadult replied, "Sandynh, its funny that you call the mainstream media "illiterate." I read what I can stand of these postings every day, and usually the ones saying the president is going to destroy America are the ones that think there will be "death panels" because Sarah Palin said so and never can spell 'there' from 'their.' "

tplocki wrote, "Every time a newsnetwork doesn't challenge eroneous statements, the audience believes it to be true. No amount of editorilyzing later can repair the damage..."

nodebris suggested that "It would help the credibility of the media if it consistently made clear that Fox is not a member of the credible media..."

waterfrontproperty wrote, "Howie - Take your head out of the sand. The groundswell has started. We are fed up - with the far left politicians, the far left media and everyone else who looks down their noses at us. 2010 is just around the corner."

kay5 said, "Mr. Kurtz would be credible, but for the fact that many, many of us watched media drop the ball the last time we tried to reform health care, in 1993.
Every ludicrous assertion by the opposition was covered endlessly, and no media outlet covered the actual issue. I've cancelled cable in disgust, after watching this YET AGAIN... No substance, all lies."

WashingtonDame wrote, "Palin might be wrong about death panels, but Obama is equally wrong when he endlessly bleats, "you'll be able to keep your insurance plan". Sorry, that's a flat-out lie. LOADS of employers will stop providing insurance for their employees if there's a public option... Stop lying, Obama."

jimD118 wrote, "So, MSM... As long as you insist on treating "the sun rises in the East" and "the sun rises in the West" as equivalent stories worthy of even-handed examination, you will continue to retreat into irrelevance. Anybody got the guts to call stupid stupid, and crazy crazy?..."

patrick4 said, "What I see when I read the Post is neither left nor right. What I see can best be described in one word: Corporatist. Corporatism does not care about where we fall in the culture wars, the religion wars, the opinion wars in general. Corporatism only cares about which way the money is flowing. The Post is financed the same way all big newspapers are: Using corporate debt, which is traded on the domestic and international finance markets..."

Oomingmak wrote, "When the media is more interested in covering "the ruckus" rather than a healthy and fair debate, bad information drives out good. In a nutshell, the media empowers crazies."

mawheelz said, "...Americans have to tune in to the Comedy Channel and comedians like Jon Stewart to get investigative journalism these days. He is not afraid to ask the tough questions and confront lies... You are the ones who let the last 8 years of the Bush administration go unchallenged and unreported..."

treetracker wrote, "...talking heads such as Mathews, Beck, Olbermann, Hannity and the like should be called what they are - COMMENTATORS, not journalists. Apparently the American public does not know the difference..."

MagicDog1 asked, "Gee, Howie, why so sursprised? You and your newspaper spent eight years rubber stamping every Bush lie, and now it flummoxes you that no one will listen to you anymore?"

ithejury wrote, "...let's guess 70%+ or so of your readers (30% on right and 40% on left) may not be paying a lot of attention to what the journalists are saying -- except to get steamed enough to vote (and likely cancel one another out...) but if journalistic reasoning actually reaches a portion of the perhaps quieter 15-20% swing-voters (who actually make the difference in the end), then the journalists will have done a good day's work. so Buck Up! and call morons moronic... it could make all the difference."

Truth6 wrote, "...The media got what it wanted and placed an inexperienced fraud in the White House. What the media also got is an indefinite case of "Boy Who Cried Wolf"-itis. You've lied so many times to the people about Obama's false 'greatness,' your credibility is shot. No outlet more so than WaPo, its salons and its admitted Obama bias."

richcpl said, "Yes, the mainstream media worked to debunk the phony claim about death panels. But that's just surface work. What they should have done -- what their true job as journalists is -- was to take it a step further and actively slam the liars peddling the crap to the public. Muckrake. It used to be a high calling."

johnhodson wrote, "I am sick of the media refusing the use the dreaded "L word"...I 'm ta[l]king about "Lying"! There are too many times when they say "fact check"... and many many other synonyms for not telling the truth... not telling the truth is called "lying" and the media let us all down in this regard in the build up to the Iraq War and the coverage in the first year or so after and now again with the Health Care debate..."

We'll close with this exchange:

24681 wrote, "Traditional media is no longer able to influence Public opinion because the Public recognizes traditional media for what it is - an arm of the Democratic Party. Actually, we've known it for decades, but it's only in recent times that the Public has alternative news sources and opinion sites such as the Internet, cable TV and talk radio..."

But Observer2 said, "Conservatives are always paranoid about things in the world! They think Iraq has WMD, Health bill has Death panels and media is owned by Liberals. Media was fully complicit before Iraq war was declared. True Lib media would not do that."

All comments on the Kurtz column are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  August 24, 2009; 7:21 AM ET
 | Tags: Health-Care Reform, Journalism  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Pulling the Plug on "Public Option"
Next: Commenters Want Out of Afghanistan


Yes, if you search the House bill and the Senate bill for the exact phrase "death panel" you will find nothing. But this does not mean Sarah Palin does not have a point.

I heard a story the other day from a caller on a radio show whose 85 year old dad was diagnosed with dementia and was in a VA program. They actively discouraged her from having her father fed or treatments performed on him because it was not cost effective. When he developed a kidney infection which is curable by antibiotics, they denied her the pills because his temperature was 0.1F below the threshold they use to prescribe. He died from a curable infection.

What this tale illustrates is that in an overloaded system with underfunding, at some point cost considerations must come into play, and when those programs are run by the government, someone other than you makes decisions for you.

If you look to the health care system in England, you can see another example. Colon cancer early on presents in the form of treatable polyps, but because the average time to get care in socialised medicine is so very long, cancer can advance to the point where a high success rate simple procedure becomes a low success rate procedure in which the patient dies.

We all know the financials in the House bill are way too optimistic. People who right now are not paying for insurance will be added to the public rolls without any viable means of paying for it identified, and it is likely a situation such as what we have with Medicaid or Medicare where only 80-90% of a procedures cost is reimbursed will develop for Obamacare.

Money will be tight, and cost savings will be sought, and if the government drives you into the public option by letting private industry dump their existing plans in favor of the option, we will be stuck in a situation where those appointed by the goverment make life or death decisions for us.

Right now I make my own decisions. I would hate to lose that.

Posted by: Wiggan | August 28, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Health care is NOT that complicated. You see, Obama’s government managed competition is nothing short of a single payer American nationalized health care government plan and socialized delivery system which does not and will not bring competition.

However, it will guarantee and ensure the complete communization of Americans health care insurance plans, treatments and benefits across all States whether the people like it or not. (Sec. 141) and (Subtitle E)

Posted by: peterclarke1 | August 24, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Are there any journalists at the Washington Post who have looked into the campaign donations and or investor dividends our legislators may be receiving from the major health insurance companies???? I am also struck by the lack of personalization in the stories about those insured middle class and upper middle class Americans, and even upper class Americans, who for the first time in their life learn they're "underinsured" upon being diagnosed with a chronic disease or terminal illness (like various forms of cancer) and realize the 20%-30% of costs their insurance plan through their employer does not pick up can equal $50,000 or more which for many of them would be a prohibitive sum to pay?

Posted by: julesclem | August 24, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

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