Efforts to reform the nation’s ailing health system – or non-system as it were – are dominating news headlines. Yet, if you rely on the Albuquerque Journal (the state and city’s “paper of record”), you’d probably have a rather skewed notion of the parameters of the health care debate.
Turns out I’m not the only one watching the Journal’s puzzling coverage of health care reform.
New Mexico Independent columnist Arthur Alpert aptly picks up on the Albuquerque Journal’s gaming of national health care news. In a column published in today’s Independent, Alpert points out the common Journal editorial practices of using skewed headlines and reproducing only select parts of national stories. Alpert carefully sources his column, providing multiple pieces of evidence to support his opinion. Go check it out, it’s a good read.
Unfortunately for readers of the Albuquerque Journal, using questionable headlines and splicing stories aren’t the only ways editors game the paper’s health care coverage. The nonexistent firewall between editorial content and news gathering at the Journal gives editors additional tools for foisting their political agenda on readers.
Let’s start with a recent editorial, and then trace the arc of coverage – both in the news section and on the editorial page.
In an editorial published on June 17, Journal editors expressed dismay over the Veteran’s Administration treatment of sick and wounded veterans. This is not a new story. For all the Bush Administration’s rhetoric of troop support, they really didn’t live up to their purported values when it came to funding the VA.
Yet, the Journal used this story to bash away at “government run health care.” Here’s the closing line…
The rest of us might start worrying about the future under a “reformed” system of health care, if this is the best the federal government can provide to meet its obligation to veterans.
Veterans Deserve Safer Medical Procedures, Albuquerque Journal, June 17, 2009. (You may need a subscription).
That line set the tone for the following nine days of opinions and “news” on the health care reform debate.
On June 21, two guest opinions appeared on the editorial page, one from Senator Jeff Bingaman, the other from Presbyterian Healthcare Services CEO Jim Hinton. Each piece identified well-known problems with the current system, but both steered clear of what most Americans want to know more about – namely, the public insurance option. It’s almost as if editors began to employ the old false equivalence trick by publishing Bingaman and Hinton opinions on the same day.
The shades of false equivalence found in Sunday’s editorial page became clearer in the June 22 “Up Front” opinion by sometime reporter and sometime columnist Winthrop Quigley.
Here are the money segments of the column…