Friday, August 14, 2009

Newspapers and Grassley-roots protests


Although the health-care reform issue has been hotter than your outdoor grill this summer, the hometown newspaper coverage leads me to wonder about the papers' priorities. In today's Beacon Journal, for example, there was no mention of it at all. It didn't exist in the news columns although one letter writer on the editorial page did have something to say about it. (As we used to scream when a baseball fan in the stands caught a foul ball, "Sign her up!")

Incidentally, the paper's omission occurred at the time when a new development in the noisy debate over "death panels" was being reported in the Plain Dealer and other media. The misstated panel has been omitted from the bill being written in a Senate Finance Committee.

Perhaps even worse than the absence of a story was the lopsided story published by the Zanesville Times Recorder that reported the comments by a group called the Zanesville Patriots who were protesting at the Zanesville office of U.S. Rep. Zack Space. They raised the usual number of ill-informed questions about the issue, with one quoted as worrying that if her father has a third heart attack, "they'll just tell us to pull the plug."

The problem here is that the reporter never added a line or two to balance these attacks with what reform proponents have said to set the record straight. At this point it's questionable whether the complaints will fade away even with the the so-called death panel withdrawn. When they run out of questions in the assault on President Obama, they'll simply invent some more.

Health-care footnote:

Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican serving on the Senate Finance Committee preparing a reform bill, is a stand-out recipient of the Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy (GALL) award after reporting the withdrawal of the "death panel" language in the draft, saying:

"We dropped the end-of-life provisions from consideration entirely because of the way they could be misinterpreted and implemented incorrectly.

Senator, a reasonable question: And who has been, eh, "misinterpreting" the language of the bill with death-panel warnings in your public speeches more than you, sir?"

The bill should include medical insurance coverage for incoherence.


PJJinOregon said...

As Arlen Specter bubbled glibly: "The Grassley's always greener ......

Anonymous said...

My personal feeling is that an article by AP should not even be read. Probably I should write the Beacon about the percent of their paper that I now consider waste space (we could be drawing neat pictures on this newsprint paper if only you hadn't printed it up with nonsense. The Associated Press's managing editor is a Republican party flak. He almost quit his AP job to work for McCain, and now he is supposed to be guiding his reporters in unbiased press reporting.

The Beacon editors didn't appreciate the quality of the the McClatchy reporting when McClatchy was their owner back in 2001-2003, so I don't expect them to recognize it now. But I still don't understand why they are running anything from AP.

Grumpy Abe said...

I can answer your questions about the AP. Wire service stories are not, eh...labor intensive at the local level. Also, it's true that the AP stories are suspect now that we know that the AP's Washington boss was exposed as having a soft spot for Republicans. With newspapers now exchanging stories and bylines daily to fill the news columns there's not an ounce of competitiveness left in the shrinking staffs. It will become harder for those 'journalism" organizations that cite good work to single out a meritorious story that hasn't been shared verbatim with a half-dozen other papers. Finally, if the economy turns around, do you want to guess how many publishers will agree to expand budgets to hire more experienced reporters?