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“Television Media Played Into Republicans’ Hands”: TV News Does A Complete 180 On Ebola Coverage After Midterms

Network news coverage of the Ebola virus abruptly and dramatically fell off following the midterm elections earlier this month, according to a new study by Media Matters.

After reviewing transcripts from Oct. 7 to Nov. 17 in the 5-11 p.m. time slot, Media Matters discovered that evening broadcast and cable news programs aired close to 1,000 segments on Ebola in the four weeks leading up to the elections, and only 49 segments in the two weeks that followed.

“In early October, the GOP developed a plan to make the federal government’s response to Ebola a central part of its midterm elections strategy,” the study reads. “Television media played into Republicans’ hands, helping to foment panic about the disease.”

CNN showed the most significant decrease in Ebola coverage following the midterms, airing 335 segments in the weeks leading up to Election Day and just 10 in the period after. Fox News’ coverage fell from 281 segments to 10, and MSNBC recorded a disparity of 222 segments to 13.

Broadcast networks showed a pronounced dip in their Ebola coverage as well.

“CBS’ 54 segments dropped to six, NBC’s 44 segments dropped to five, and ABC’s 39 segments dropped to four,” according to the study.

But even before the compilation of this data — before the correlation between Ebola and the midterm elections became so clear — the media faced harsh criticism for the fervor and panic with which it reported on a virus that had only infected, at most, a handful of U.S. citizens.

In October, Fox News’ Shepard Smith scolded his colleagues in the press for their “irresponsible” and “hysterical” handling of the story.

USA Today columnist Rem Rieder, notes Media Matters, called the “breathless, alarmist reports” on Ebola “the antithesis of what responsible journalists should be doing,” in a piece published a week prior to the midterms.

And despite all the reports and panels, and the hours upon hours of segments leading up to Election Day, the coverage was still rife with misinformation and largely incomplete. News outlets obsessively scrutinized the handling of few isolated cases of Ebola within the U.S. while all but ignoring the thousands dying from the disease at the source of the outbreak.

“If poor media coverage can create an atmosphere of anxiety and misinformation, then the right kind of coverage can lead to a more active and productive public response,” Jason Linkins wrote for The Huffington Post in October. “To achieve this, the media needs to recognize that the true center of gravity in the Ebola story is the crisis in West Africa.”

 

By: Jackson Connor, The Huffington Post Blog, November 19, 2014

 

November 20, 2014 Posted by | Ebola, Media, Midterm Elections | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Not Off To A Good Start”: Heritage Tries Its Hand At News, But Forgets The Facts

The Daily Signal,  The Heritage Foundation’s online “news” website, debuted Tuesday, offering up vagaries and unverifiable assertions aplenty, but too few empirical facts and little in the way of attribution. Its first video was a publicist’s dream, a puff piece that no serious news organization would air.

What appears in The Daily Signal matters because it is assured a large audience eager for reinforcement of deeply embedded views, but no real evidence that would challenge or even bring into question the factual basis of those views.

Reader comments on the Signal’s first investigative piece – the only solid piece of fact-based journalism it published Tuesday – showed just how eager Signal readers are to read confirmation of their biases into pieces and to ignore inconvenient facts, especially subtly presented truths that run contrary to the Heritage Foundation’s well-established perspectives.

Heritage opened its doors in 1973 and has since worked to ensure business dominance of American politics and government. It likes to describe itself as the true champion of the poor in America. A realistic appraisal of its policies shows that it favors protecting existing wealth against the creative destruction by which the existing economic structure is constantly under siege from new wealth seekers.

Heritage also turns a blind eye to the many stealth forms of welfare for the already rich that I detailed in my books Perfectly Legal, Free Lunch, and The Fine Print.

America needs fact-based, insightful and aggressive journalism — both opinion and fact — from every point on the spectrum. But sadly, much of what we get from what mainstream news organizations mislabel  “conservative” is radical rhetoric that far too often has little basis in fact or even reality.

Progressives and liberals in particular should encourage, and read, quality journalism from the right because it will help weed out flabby, half-baked ideas by everyone not in accord with the Koch brothers and Fox News chief Roger Ailes. Without rigorous journalism from the far right, the whole country suffers a paucity of informing debate.

The framers used empiricism and reason to make their case for our Constitution and were critical of naked assertion, vague accusations and failure to test hypothesis with verifiable facts.

The breathtaking distortions and even lies by some of our best-known opinion journalists who self-identify as conservatives drew my scrutiny in National Memo columns this year, which you can read here, here, here and here.

The Signal surely cannot quarrel with my call for fact-based news and opinion, as its website says, “We are committed to news coverage that is accurate, fair and trustworthy. As we surveyed the media landscape, it became clear to us that the need for honest, thorough, responsible reporting has never been more critical. That’s a challenge in today’s fast-moving world. And it’s a challenge we’re willing to accept.”

The website then proclaims:

We are dedicated to developing a news outlet that cuts straight to the heart of key political and policy arguments – not spin reported as news. The Daily Signal is supported by the resources and intellectual firepower of The Heritage Foundation – a dedicated team of experienced journalists to cover the news and more than 100 policy experts who can quickly help put issues in perspective. We believe this combination of news, commentary and policy analysis will establish The Daily Signal as a trusted source on America’s most important issues.

We believe that high-quality, credible news reporting on political and policy issues is of paramount importance to an informed and free society. This is a reflection of that Jeffersonian notion that the greatest defense of liberty is an informed citizenry.

So, let’s take a look first at the Signal’s featured first-day video, an interview with Sharyl Attkisson, a former reporter and anchor for CBS, CNN and PBS.  The headline is hyped, describing an interview with the Signal’s own correspondent as “exclusive.”

The headline also promises a report on “Journalism’s Very Dangerous Trend” but presents zero verifiable evidence of anything dangerous or even of any trend.

After Attkisson quit CBS, she told Bill O’Reilly in April that her Benghazi, Obamacare and “Fast and Furious” gun stories did not make the air because senior producers lost interest. O’Reilly, an entertainer possessed of masterfully honed commercial instincts, skillfully conflated that into an implication of foul motives at CBS without a shred of empirical evidence that anyone could verify. Classic O’Reilly.

At The Daily Signal, producer Kelsey Harkness tossed Attkisson softballs, even puffballs. As edited, the video shows zero effort to get beyond rhetoric to empirical evidence — names, dates, specific stories, etc. Naked assertion without verifiable specifics is not reporting, it is propaganda, an irony evidently lost on the Signal’s editors.

Harkness promises two more installments, so perhaps we will see some actual reporting by her in the days ahead. Hopefully she will improve with experience, but if not, she can look forward to a superb career as a flack, as reporters call publicists.

The Daily Signal let Attkisson mix and conflate issues in a way no serious and experienced journalist would let pass. Her vague assertions about CBS newsroom managers, as edited, flowed seamlessly into a different issue — non-journalists who use social media to confuse the public.

Attkisson gave no specifics, nor did Harkness ask for any. Attkisson did express a belief that stories want to “tell themselves” in “natural” ways, whatever that means.

News does not exist in nature. It does not just happen. News is made by reporters who gather facts, check and crosscheck them, seek out a range of perspectives and present what they learn in the time available as narrative, attributing facts to sources. Reported columns, like this one, combine those facts with expert knowledge gained through years of study and practice.

Differences between reporters in the field and editors at their desks are, and always will be, sources of disagreement and even angry words.

Different news organizations also have different takes on what is significant and where the heart of the story lies, as shown by academic studies. Long ago, a front-page series in the Los Angeles Times by the late David Shaw, the pioneering news-as-a-beat reporter, documented how little the front pages of the nation’s major newspapers have in common. That’s competition for you.

Attkisson has done serious work, winning Emmys and once being named a finalist for an Investigative Reporters and Editors award. But as presented by The Daily Signal, she comes across as a disgruntled former employee who does not offer even one telling detail to back up her vague implications of news distortions.

News distortions do sometimes occur. In 1973 I exposed how for years the owner of what was said to be the most profitable TV station in America and five other broadcast outlets issued orders to manipulate the news to advance his commercial interests, which eventually resulted in the forced sale of those stations.

Attkisson’s own words describe what is nothing more than routine disagreements about significance, yet The Daily Signal gullibly presented her story without a single tough question.

Attkisson also indicates she may have been late on some of the stories, coming up not with solid facts, but merely tantalizing leads she wanted to pursue. In TV news, where immediacy is paramount, potential new angles on last week’s news to be offered sometime next month is not a formula for success. But The Daily Signal failed to explore this perfectly legitimate and routine basis for telling Attkisson to move on to more pressing stories.

This puff video comes with the Signal’s first investigative piece, a report by Attkisson about deceiving parents of premature babies into participating in a federally funded medical experiment. It is a troubling tale that I recommend.

But unless you are a careful reader, you could miss that these experiments all took place during the George W. Bush administration.

That brings us back to Heritage’s new outlet feeding an audience what it wants rather than what it needs to know. Deciding what matters among an overwhelming array of choices is the judgment for which journalists get paid.

One of the first to comment on Attkisson’s investigative piece wrote: “Don’t forget that this is the Obama administration. The same people that burn aborted babies to generate electricity.”

Many of the other comments on the piece, and the video, are also mindless screeds against Obama, Democrats and anyone with whose views the posters viscerally disagree. Plenty of liberal and centrist websites post equally mindless comments, a practice that would diminish if people had to sign their real names.

America needs well-informed, thoughtful and fact-respecting conservative journalists. Without serious and fact-based, issue-oriented journalism, we get civic debates that confuse rather than enlighten, we get poorly conceived ideas that sometimes become law. The quality of our civic debate matters so long as we intend to choose our own fate.

Going forward, I hope that new websites managers demonstrate that they are in fact in the business of news, a difficult task given that The Daily Signal is an arm of an advocacy organization with a well-established reputation for ignoring important issues, not the least among them how its supporters sup with big spoons at the public trough. They are not off to a good start, but that can change if The Daily Signal is really about what its website asserts.

 

By; David Cay Johnston, The National Memo, June 4, 2014

June 7, 2014 Posted by | Heritage Foundation, Journalism, Media | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Getting By On Fumes”: Has Rush Limbaugh Finally Reached The End Of The Road?

Like him or hate him, there is no disputing that Rush Limbaugh’s very special brand of mixing right-wing politics with his flare for entertainment has produced one of the most successful radio programs in the medium’s long history.

Whatever the burning political question of the day, millions of Americans have relished the opportunity to tune into Rush’s program, knowing that he would quickly take that hot potato, throw a few gallons of verbal kerosene into the mix and elevate the matter into a five alarm fire with a just a few well-chosen words spoken in the style only Rush Limbaugh could produce.

Until now…

At long last, it appears that Rush Limbaugh has run out of steam.

I have to acknowledge that I have sensed Rush getting by on fumes for some time now (yes, I tune into his show from time to time to enjoy his broadcasting skills if not his message). However, it was only recently that the world of Limbaugh crossed that thin red line from partially serious to total self-parody and audience deception—a line crossed from which there is often no return.

It happened on the occasion of Stephen Colbert’s appointment to fill David Letterman’s soon to be vacated chair on the CBS  (CBS +0.65%) late-night set.

By using this occasion to create a political narrative designed to stir up his listeners, Limbaugh telegraphed to his loyal followers that he is now dependent upon feeding fully faux political nonsense that his audience instinctively—or explicitly—knows is a bunch of baloney.

To be sure, this is hardly the first time Limbaugh has fed his audience a diet of twisted information and bizarre, conspiratorial memes. However, it may well be the first time that he attempted to shove a diet down the throats of any semi-rational listeners still living in the real world made up of nonsense that even his most loyal listener could not possibly swallow.

That’s a problem for Rush.

A show like Limbaugh’s is wholly reliant on his listeners’ willingness to believe—or suspend belief—no matter how ‘out there’ their guru’s arguments may be. While it is one thing for me to sneer at much of what Limbaugh may present, it is quite another when he attempts to sell his loyal audience on stuff they already know, through personal experience, to be false and fraudulent hokum.

Upon hearing the news of Colbert’s new gig, Limbaugh pronounced— as only Limbaugh can pronounce—

“CBS has just declared war on the heartland of America. No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values, conservatism. Now it’s just wide out in the open. What this hire means is a redefinition of what is funny, and a redefinition of what is comedy. They’re blowing up the 11:30 format… they hired a partisan, so-called comedian, to run a comedy show.”

Not quite satisfied with his initial declaration, Limbaugh returned to the subject in a later program, commenting further on CBS’s  decision to hire Colbert—

“It clearly indicates that the people making this decision have chosen to write off a portion of the country, that they don’t care if a portion of the country watches or not.”

Rush has it right on his last statement.

Indeed, the people who make decisions at television networks have chosen to write off a portion of the country—a decision that was made for them a very long time ago.

However, it has never had anything to do with making choices of audience based on anything even resembling politics and has always had everything to do with blowing off  anyone older than 49 years of age because these older folks are poison to advertisers. In other words, the networks are clearly writing off those in ‘the heartland’ if they’ve reached 50 years old—just as they’ve written off folks in this demo in every other nook and cranny of America.

What Limbaugh chose to ignore in his rant is that this is a choice based on what television advertisers want—and what television advertisers want is a young television viewing audience or, to be more specific, viewers that fall between the ages of 18-49. Despite Limbaugh’s truly lame efforts to pretend otherwise, if you fall within this age group, you are welcomed to the party whether you be a progressive, conservative, independent, communist, John Bircher, or whatever other political affiliation you can conjure up.

You see, car companies don’t really care about your politics when they are trying to sell you a car via a TV commercial—they care about whether you are in a position to buy that new car should they succeed in getting your attention. Purina really doesn’t give a damn about your politics or your dog’s politics when they are trying to sell you their brand of dog food.

For these reasons that would appear to be obvious to everyone but Rush Limbaugh—although we all know that they are obvious to him too—all viewers younger than 50 are coveted by the television networks.

And yet, Limbaugh—a guy who has spent his life in media—wants his audience to believe that there is some political agenda on the part of a network at work here. Never mind that early morning and late night are the two largest sources of revenue for every broadcast network. Limbaugh expects us to believe that CBS is willing to throw all that money out the window to make a political statement.

If you are a Limbaugh fan, how are you not asking yourself just how dumb this man thinks you are?

Even the right-wing Frontpagemag.com was able to properly discern the truth of the situation and provide an excellent explanation of reality:

The number of people who watch a TV show stopped mattering years ago. If it did, Murder She Wrote, a show that had an older audience and high ratings, wouldn’t have been canceled. Instead there’s talk of rebooting it with younger multicultural leads in a different setting.

Network television doesn’t just fail to count older viewers; it tries to drive them away. A show with an older viewership is dead air. Advertisers have been pushed by ad agencies into an obsession with associating their product with a youthful brand.

The demo rating, 18-49, is the only rating that matters. Viewers younger than that can still pay off. Just ask the CW. Older viewers however are unwanted.

A network show would rather have 5 million viewers in the demo than 15 million older viewers. A cable show would rather have 1 million viewers in the demo than 10 million viewers outside the demo.

Colbert and Stewart have the top late night talk shows in the demo. That means 1 million ‘young’ viewers. That’s barely what Letterman was pulling in on a top network.

Networks, which already have high median ages, are doing everything possible to bring them down. CBS has a median age of 58 and is the oldest network. Colbert is supposed to lower their average.

Letterman’s show had a median age of 56. Colbert’s show has a median age of 39. That a 49-year-old comedian with an audience whose median age is 39 is considered a draw for younger audiences reveals just how thoroughly younger viewers are abandoning television.”

As someone who spent the overwhelming majority of his career as a television producer and executive, I can state with absolutely certainty that Frontpagemag.com got it precisely right—and when was the last time you heard me say that a right-wing anything got it exactly right?

So, what does it say when a guy like Rush Limbaugh stoops to trying to build a political fire out of what is about as apolitical as chicken soup?

It says Rush is running on empty. It says he’s grown lazy. It says he’s probably trying to hold on to get though the next presidential election cycle before fading off into the sunset.

Rush’s audience knew that his anti-Colbert rant was nonsense the minute it left Limbaugh’s lips. How did they know?

While Limbaugh’s listeners may be inclined to believe the words of the great Rush Limbaugh, these aging listeners are the very people who can no longer find anything on TV to watch because everything is so skewed to the young viewer. They know all too well that it has nothing to do with their politics and everything to do with their age and being outside the desired demographic.

Rush Limbaugh ‘works’ when he can fire up his audience with red-hot ideology designed to bring out the anger of his listeners. But no entertainer succeeds when they try to stupidly pull the wool over the very listeners who have been loyal—and Limbaugh’s effort to politicize the Colbert hiring was just that.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, April 15, 2014

April 16, 2014 Posted by | Politics, Rush Limbaugh, Seniors | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Bordering On Checkbook Journalism”: If CBS Wants Its Reputation Back, A Better Explanation Is In Order

The comic figure of the braggart soldier first appears in Plautus’s play Miles Gloriosus in roughly 200 BC, although the Roman dramatist acknowledged a now-lost Greek model. So it’s surprising that somebody who’s spent as much time in war zones as 60 Minutes’ Lara Logan failed to recognize the type: a swaggering, self-anointed hero describing military feats nobody witnessed but him.

Bars near military bases around the world harbor fakers like Dylan Davies, aka “Morgan Jones,” as 60 Minutes called him, although they do have to be careful who they lie to. It’s mainly a tactic for fooling gullible women. I used to know a fellow whose girlfriend forgave his drunken blackouts because of his terrible experiences in Vietnam—a war that ended when he was nine.

That said, Lara Logan’s apparent naiveté is far from the most objectionable thing about CBS’s ill-fated attempt to pander to the far right’s odd obsession with the Benghazi tragedy. See, 60 Minutes’ October 27 episode supposedly falsifying the Obama administration’s version of what happened that terrible night in Libya wasn’t so much TV journalism as an infomercial for a book in which CBS had a financial stake—a manifest conflict of interest 60 Minutes neglected to mention until MediaMatters.org called its hand.

Exactly how generous an advance Simon & Schuster’s “Threshold Editions” bestowed upon Davies for his heroic tale about singlehandedly fighting his way into the besieged U.S. compound where Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three fellow Americans were killed by a terrorist mob hasn’t been revealed. Presumably enough, however, to give the one-time British mercenary ample reason to concoct a narrative pleasing to its readers’ expectations.

Having previously published books by such innovators in the art of storytelling as Glenn Beck, Mark Levin and Jerome Corsi, Threshold editors would appear to be less than rigorous about fact-checking. So excuse me for saying so, but that makes Davies virtually a paid source, and 60 Minutes a practitioner of checkbook journalism that could ruin its well-deserved reputation.

Nothing about the way CBS handled the ensuing controversy gave confidence. After boasting that its report raising “lingering questions” about Benghazi was the result of a year’s reporting and over 100 interviews, the network stonewalled as obvious flaws in its reporting began to appear.

Within three days of the 60 Minutes broadcast, the Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung learned that Davies had submitted a written incident report to Blue Mountain, his British-owned employers—a version in which nothing he told Lara Logan he’d seen and done at the U.S. compound that night could possibly be true, because he’d never actually gone there.

“Immediately,” wrote Jay Rosen at Pressthink.org, “the CBS report is in deep trouble. And anyone with a clear mind can see that. Except the people at CBS. When your key source tells two different stories, something is seriously amiss.”

Instead, a CBS spokesman announced, “We stand firmly by the story we broadcast last Sunday.”

Translation: “We’re 60 Minutes, and you’re not.”

Two days later, Davies gave The Daily Beast an interview claiming he’d neither written nor seen the incident report with his name on it, although he admitted lying to his bosses because “he did not want his supervisor to know he had disobeyed his orders to stay at his villa” that night.

So CBS’s source now says he’s told two different stories. Did Logan and her producers know that? If so, shouldn’t 60 Minutes have explained to begin with? If not, exactly what did a year’s reporting consist of?

Well, you can see where this is going. In a classic con-man’s bluff, Davies also told The Daily Beast that he’d told State Department and FBI investigators exactly what he’d told 60 Minutes.

Meanwhile, mum remained the word at CBS. They stood by their story. Period. Mystifyingly, Logan assured the New York Times that “If you read the book, you would know he never had two stories. He only had one story.”

So the incident report is a forgery? Wow, that would be news.

Who wrote it, Michelle Obama?

Then on November 7, the hammer dropped: The New York Times produced the FBI report: “Dylan Davies, a security officer hired to help protect the United States Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya, gave the FBI an account of the night that terrorists attacked the mission on Sept. 11, 2012 that contradicts a version of events he provided in a recently published book and in an interview with the CBS News program 60 Minutes.

So last Sunday, they sent Logan out to apologize: “The most important thing to every person at 60 Minutes is the truth,” she said, “and the truth is we made a mistake.”

Sorry, but that simply won’t do. Lara Logan’s a formidable figure and 60 Minutes has long defined TV journalism. But if CBS wants its reputation back, a better explanation is in order.

 

By: Gene Lyons, Featured Post, The National Memo, November 13, 2013

November 14, 2013 Posted by | Benghazi, Journalism, Media | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Anecdotal Journalism At Its Worse”: Every News Story Has Two Sides, Except, Apparently Obamacare

The rocky rollout of Obamacare has prompted commentators to attack the president and his team for having three years to plan for the launch and still not getting it right. That’s a legitimate critique as problems persist. But the same can be said for an awful lot of reporters doing a very poor job covering Obamacare. They also had three years to prepare themselves to accurately report the story.

So what’s their excuse?

The truth is, the Beltway press rarely bothers to explain, let alone cover, public policy any more. With a media model that almost uniformly revolves around the political process of Washington (who’s winning, who’s losing?), journalists have distanced themselves from the grungy facts of governance, especially in terms of how government programs work and how they effect the citizenry.

But explaining is the job of journalism. It’s one of the crucial roles that newsrooms play in a democracy. And in the recent case of Obamacare, the press has failed badly in its role. Worse, it has actively misinformed about the new health law and routinely highlighted consumers unhappy with Obamacare, while ignoring those who praise it.

As Joshua Holland noted at Bill Moyers’ website, “lazy stories of “sticker shock” and cancellations by reporters uninterested in the details of public policy only offer the sensational half of a complicated story, and that’s providing a big assist to opponents of the law.”

It’s part of a troubling trend. Fresh off of blaming both sides for the GOP’s wholly-owned, and thoroughly engineered, government shutdown, the press is now botching its Obamacare reporting by omitting key facts and context — to the delight of Republicans. It’s almost like there’s a larger newsroom pattern in play.

And this week the pattern revolved around trying to scare the hell out of people with deceiving claims about how Obamacare had forced insurance companies to “drop” clients and how millions of Americans had “lost” their coverage.

Not quite.

Insurance companies informed some customers that plans that didn’t meet minimum standards required by Obamacare would be phased out. But the part often obscured or downplayed in breathless “cancellation” news reports is that consumers are able to shop for new plans that in many cases are superior to the old ones, and often less expensive (or partially paid for by subsidies). In other words, they’re transitioning from one plan to another.

It’s understandable why right-wing partisan voices only interested in trashing Obamacare and damaging the president would push claims, as Breitbart.com recently did, that nearly one million Californians have “lost” their insurance because of the new law. (They didn’t.) It’s less clear why mainstream reporters would traffic in that same kind of misleading claims.

Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher has been methodically dissecting erroneous and painfully misleading Obamacare reports this week. He concluded one big problem is “a reliance on consumers who aren’t insurance experts, and reporters who aren’t much better.”

Reporters, and especially television reporters, seem anxious to interview consumers who have been notified by letter that their insurance policy has been canceled and who say they’re shocked to find out how expensive purchasing a new plan will be.

But as Christopher discovered, that’s often not the case and that consumers and reporters either don’t understand the options that are available, or haven’t researched the issue enough. (Christopher was able to find much less expensive plans for several consumers touted in TV reports.) That’s because (surprise!) the cost of new insurance plans quoted in letters sent by insurance companies often don’t represent the lowest option available via the open exchange.

Just look at the now-infamous CBS report about Florida resident Dianne Barrette who complained her premium under Obamacare would increased tenfold, from $54 a month to $591 a month. (She was quickly invited onto Fox News to tell her tale.) But a woman paying just $54 a month for health insurance didn’t set off any red flags among editors at CBS News? Barrette’s health plan — the best she could afford — was a barely-there “junk health insurance” policy that didn’t cover hospitalization, ambulance service, or prescription drugs.

Left unsaid by CBS, as Holland reported, was the fact that under Obamacare Barrette qualified “for a bronze plan, which guarantees free preventive care and coverage for hospitalizations, for only $97 per month — one-sixth of that headline number that’s making the rounds.”

Meanwhile, NBC Nightly News profiled another so-called Obamacare “sticker shock” victim and detailed how Deborah Cavallaro’s monthly premium would go up from $293 to $484. (She appeared on CNBC to repeat her Obamacare complaints.) But then American Prospect‘s Paul Waldman did some online shopping and found a plan that Cavallaro qualified for and cost $258 per-month, $35 less than the plan that’s being canceled.

“If you find someone who’s going to end up paying more thanks to Obamacare, fair enough,” wrote Waldman. “Run with the story. But first, you’d better perform the due diligence to find out what a comparable plan really costs.” (Still, lots of reporters don’t.)

Christopher noted another glaring omission from the ongoing reporting: “None of these reports take the extra step of explaining the tremendous benefits of the Affordable Care Act, for which most reasonable people wouldn’t necessarily mind a bit of a tradeoff.”

Also, absent from virtually all the reports is the acknowledgement that insurance companies canceling existing plans in the individual market and consumers being forced to join new ones is not an unusual occurrence. At all.

Obamacare coverage has often been anecdotal journalism at its worst, simply because it’s been the same one anecdote told over and over and over.

One CBS report acknowledged, “Industry experts say about half the people getting the letters will pay more — and half will pay less, thanks to taxpayer subsidies.” If that’s the case, where are the television news reports featuring the “half” who will soon be paying less for health insurance thanks to Obamacare?

Maybe I’ve just missed them all? But for this news viewer the pattern seems unmistakable: Consumers who might have to pay more (or more accurately, consumers who think they might have to pay more) are welcomed before the cameras to tell their understandably frustrating tales.

In his bad-news Obamacare report featuring three frustrated health care consumers, CNN’s Drew Griffin admitted that he didn’t even bother looking for success stories. Instead, as host Anderson Cooper explained, because Obama had given a speech extolling the benefits of Obamacare, it was CNN’s and Griffin’s job to “counter against that.”

And then there was the absurd CBS report which highlighted one man’s complaint that under Obamacare all insurance plans must provide maternity care coverage. As Media Matters noted, instead of interviewing a beneficiary of the maternity coverage, CBS highlighted a man upset that his plan included the key benefit.

The media rule has been hard to miss: Consumers who have complaints about Obamacare are much, much more newsworthy than those who have praise.

By the way, in case anyone is interested, here are some examples of Obamacare fans (who have been highlighted by local media outlets and personal online postings):

* Phil Sherburne in Salt Lake City purchased health insurance for his family of five for just $123 per-month.

* California mechanic and small business owner Rakesh Rikhi purchased $500-a-month health insurance, helping him save $5,000 each year.

* Katie Klabusich sometimes paid more for health insurance each month than she did for rent, and bounced around from bad plan to bad plan. Now thanks to Obamacare she has solid health insurance. Or, “HOLY SHIT I HAVE COMPREHENSIVE MEDICAL COVERAGE STARTING IN TEN WEEKS!”, as Klabusich wrote on her blog.

Every news story has two sides. Except, apparently, Obamacare.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters For America, October 30, 2013

November 1, 2013 Posted by | Media, Obamacare, Press | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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