Why Journalists Won’t Touch Healthcare Policy

by Ben Cohen

Paul Krugman on why journalists would rather cover the horse race, rather than the actual ins and outs of healthcare policy:

It’s safer to cover the race. If you cover policy, and go beyond

dueling quotes, you have to make some factual assertions — and people

who prefer to believe otherwise will get mad. Newsweek’s Sharon Begley

wrote a piece about what actually is and isn’t in Obamacare, and got mail from readers

denouncing her and wishing her an early death. As I pointed out the

other day, I’m getting a lot of hate mail — and I mean obscenities,

death wishes, and all that, not strongly worded disagreements — for

writing about Swiss health care and budget arithmetic. Much safer to

report on ups and downs in the conventional wisdom.

The upshot, of course, is that we’re having a crucial national

policy debate in which the great bulk of the news coverage tells people

nothing at all about the policy issues.

The exact same can be said of national election coverage. Who remembers what Mitt Romney’s healthcare proposal was compared to John McCain’s in 2008? The media focused more on how Romney’s visual comparison to Ronald Reagan and John McCain’s war record played with voters rather than what they were actually proposing for policy.

While it is easy to accuse Americans of being disinterested dummies, the real culprits are the main stream media outlets who refuse to run anything resembling factual journalism and systematically dumb down debate to get ratings. If we don’t get serious healthcare reform, we cannot just blame the Democrats or the Republicans. We must also hold CNN, MSNBC and Fox to account for failing to tell us what we missed out on.

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.