Health Care Reform: How The Media's Ills Affect Us

For those of us who follow traditional media, we knew this was going to happen. It’s just a shame that it had to happen with a story so potentially significant.

The national, traditional mainstream media has blown the Health Care Reform story.  I write that because, let’s face it, there is no visible, easily accessible coverage of the bills “on the table” and what’s in them.  Yes, the bills are reportedly long and extremely complicated.  But part of the role of journalism is supposed to be taking esoteric, but important, information and breaking it down for better public understanding and, perhaps, uncovering previously hidden facts along the way.

The coverage of Health Care Reform 2009 style has essentially consisted of a Presidential PR Campaign, Congressional bickering (all part of political PR)  and public opinion polls (because the public has strong opinions, even without facts).  Health Care Reform has been fodder for talk radio and talking TV heads, but beyond opinion, is largely a mystery to a culture that, ironically, is more hungry for more information than ever before.  Ironically, we have more news sources giving us less news, at least on this subject, than ever before.   I see a few reasons for this:

  • Resources – fewer journalists in an industry starving for revenue means it’s nearly impossible to “turn a reporter loose” on an enormous piece of legislation and sources that can help make sense of it.  That was take a reporter, or two, out of “the news mix” for several days (if not longer) and the bare-bones staffs can’t (or don’t want to) do that.
  • Opinion-driven Coverage – this has been a growing phenomenon for the past 15 years, previously cost cut broadcast media outlets expect you to find out about the news somewhere else, then come to them for opinion.  
  • The Obama Factor – the President still grabs an audience, regardless of his approval rating.  Putting him on for an hour of Prime Time spin is easier, cheaper and will draw more eyeballs then an hour primer on the proposed reform reported by journalists

So if and when a bill passes and is signed into law, how much will you know about it?  Chances are, not very much.  If that ends up happening, this is one case where “blame the media” will actually be appropriate.