Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Health Insurance Debate: Excuse Me While I Let Out a Wheezy Sigh

Wow. Just when I thought broadcast news couldn't get any worse, it sinks to a whole, deeper, scummier, darker level. I say broadcast news, but the newspapers are just as bad. If I read one more poll from USA Today or NBC News, I might be forced to take direct action.

I thought the media, and the news media in particular had a public interest obligation. That's what I always hear the print dinosaurs whining about whenever I read yet another cliche about being an ink-stained wretch who wanted to give people the information they needed to function in a democracy. Ummm, apparently those days are over.

The coverage has turned into a window on the bizarre, and yes, I even admit, entertaining, match between the psycho anti-reform folks and the remarkably inarticulate, ill-informed elected Democrats who can't seem to answer the most basic questions about the proposals on the table. (I believe there are 5 - that's what PBS told me, and they are the most trusted news source in America, believe it or not.)

So I was quite gratified when My Man, Bill Moyers brought in his old buddy, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, and another guy to talk about how the media is covering this. But it got me thinking how hard it is for media outlets to make rational, thoughtful news decisions - in this case, broadcasting over and over again the marginal crazies who scream out questions and won't wait for an answer (and lest I am unclear, I am including the single payer folks in this. They are behaving in some cases equally shamefully.)

The toughest part, and I speak from personal experience, about being a journalist is standing by your work. It's even tougher when your organization abandons you (like Sulzberger abandoned Judy Miller, like CBS abandoned Dan Rather). It's tough to stand alone. But if two news people come together to tell the status quo that the news media is covering this "discussion" to the detriment of the public interest, then they're not alone anymore. If we all had a little courage to voice the absurdities of this most recent exercise in news insanity, then maybe we wouldn't be alone anymore.

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