Friday, February 25, 2011

As Predicted the Media Ignores the Ruling Upholding Health Care Reform

In a recent post on the D.C. District Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of the health care reform law I predicted that the media would continue its practice of ignoring such ruling while lavishing coverage on rulings that the law was unconstitutional. This despite the fact that three courts have now ruled the law constitutional to two ruling it unconstitutional. Sadly, but not surprisingly, I was right. This graph, produced by Nancy Pelosi's office (via Daily Kos) shows exactly that using data compiled by Steve Benen at Washington Monthly.

You will notice that in the final column reflecting coverage of the most recent ruling there is no line for the Washington Post. This is because, as Benen points out "the Washington Post couldn't bother to run a single article -- not one -- about the Kessler ruling, even after it was decided in Washington, about a mile from the Post's office building." There are explanations (excuses) for this such as Ezra Klein's argument, cited by Benen, that cases changing the status quo are more news worthy than those that uphold it. That might make sense in some contexts but given the fierce battle over the Affordable Care Act and the fact that everyone expects the Supreme Court to decide its fate in the end, I don't buy it here. As Benen himself points out (and citing Greg Sargant) this does matter because this is all happening in a political climate in which the Law is under constant attack from Republicans.

While Benen and Sargant both recognize that the coverage could affect what ultimately happens in the political arena they both just shrug their shoulders and say they understand why the negative opinions are more newsworthy. I find this blithe acceptance of the media as essentially unable to report a story fairly rather disturbing. While a negative opinion might be more newsworthy in some circumstances given the highly charged nature of the debate here, the potential impact of the coverage on that debate, and the enormous importance which the media itself placed on the negative decisions the slanted coverage in this case strikes me as nothing short of a kind of journalistic malpractice.


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