Yesterday, on Thursday, June 28, 2012, a number of journalists, including ones at CNN, Fox News and The Huffington Post, initially reported, incorrectly, that the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down a key provision of the healthcare law.
This provision was the one that will require most Americans, by 2014, to get health insurance or pay a penalty. It’s known as the individual mandate.
It’s totally unacceptable that any news organization got this wrong, and absurd that they did.
By way of illustration, we’ll take a transcript of CNN’s screw-up yesterday and play with it. (To read the real, complete transcript of CNN’s special on yesterday’s Supreme Court decision on health care, please click here)
In our version we’ll even make Wolf Blitzer look a little smarter than he was yesterday.
OK, let’s begin. In our scenario, here’s the setup: Instead of it being June 28, 2012, it’s another summer day, some time ago. To be exact, it’s Aug. 12, 1960. And instead of going to reporters John King and Kate Bolduan on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., let’s have Wolf Blitzer call them in from the front steps of 457 Madison Ave. (at 51st Street) in Manhattan.
Blitzer: It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of this. It’s the signature achievement of Dr. Seuss. And we’re live on the steps of Random House in New York City waiting to get our hands on the new book the moment it’s published. John, what’s the mood? This book could impact virtually every American nursery school student for years to come.
King: Yes, it’s been 18 months in the making. If I was in the studio and had my magic wall we could see how many different rhymes the good doctor uses in his books. It’s been quite a ride the last three years, since ‘The Cat in the Hat’ came out and rhymed 220 words and changed the face of education.
Blitzer: All right, John, hold on a second. Kate Bolduan has got some information. Kate, go ahead. Tell us what’s going on.
Bolduan: This is our first reading. We’re still going through the book, but I want to bring in the breaking news that according to our producer, there’s some funny-looking creature that Sam-I am is trying to convince to like green eggs and ham, and this funny-looking, weird creature just refuses.
So it appears that the centerpiece of Dr. Seuss’s new book is that this strange-looking creature does NOT like green eggs and ham. I’m going to hop back on the phone to try to get some more information and bring it to you, Wolf.
Blitzer: Wow, that’s a dramatic moment. If indeed it’s true that some funny-looking guy does NOT like green eggs and ham, that would be history unfolding.
Blitzer. Yes. Creature. We’re going to get a lot more information. This is just the initial headline that we’re getting from inside Random House to our own Kate Bolduan.
I want to bring in Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, why would someone not like green eggs and ham? Aren’t eggs supposed to be healthy?
Gupta: I need to know more about the funny-looking guy.
Gupta: Creature. Why doesn’t he have a name? Are we sure he doesn’t have a name.
Bolduan: That’s what we’re hearing.
Gupta: Well, that’s a big deal. Are we sure the eggs are green?
Blitzer: I think at this point we still need to say “if” the eggs are green.
Bolduan: Why? I said I was told they are green. Don’t you believe me?
Blitzer: Frankly, no. John King is watching all this unfold as well. John, what else are you picking up?
King: Wolf, just waiting for more of the book.
Blitzer: Hold on John. Kate Bolduan is getting some more information. Kate, what are you learning?
Bolduan: Well, I’ve got to tell you. This is a very confusing book. But I want to make sure we are very clear on the second read.
Blitzer: Huh? Why weren’t we clear on the first read. The book is confusing? Are you kidding me? Usually, when I read these things, when I come to the end I know what’s happened. It’s pretty clear. It sounded as if you were clear. This funny-looking guy — are we sure the damn thing doesn’t have a name?? — doesn’t like green eggs and ham.
Bolduan: Well, it’s very clear that the creature does not like green eggs and ham.
And he could not, would not, on a boat.
And he will not, will not, with a goat.
He will not eat them in the rain.
He will not eat them on a train.
Not in the dark! Not in a tree!
Not in a car! You let him be!
He does not like them in a box
He does not like them with a fox.
He will not eat them in a house.
He does not like them with a mouse.
He does not like them here or there.
He does not like them ANYWHERE!
Blitzer: That seems clear.
Bolduan: It’s all very sillily dense. I’m going right back to it to find out about the rest of it. Hmm. Uh-oh. It appears this is all before the funny-looking creature actually tries the green eggs and ham, if he tries them at all. Wolf, that’s a very important distinction here.
Blitzer: It’s sillily dense? Is that even a word? Are you kidding me? How dense could it be? We’re paying you quite a lot of money to get this right. John King, can you check in on this. Wait, Kate is getting more details. What else are you learning, Kate?
Bolduan: You have to understand, we are reading now that the funny-looking creature did indeed try the green eggs and ham, and he liked them. So it looks like if you read the whole book, he LIKES green eggs and ham.
King: Wolf, I have the book here in my hand, and I’m reading it as we speak, and what Kate says is exactly right. He LIKES green eggs and ham.
Blitzer: Are the two of you nuts? Your entire assignment here was to read the damn book and let us know what happened. But instead of doing that you only read part of it and we’ve told the whole world that the some damn funny-looking guy –
Bolduan: Creature –
Blitzer: Creature does not like green eggs and ham, when, in fact, he does like them. What’s the point rushing onto the air with the wrong information? Some reporters you are.
Later in the day CNN issued this apology: "In his book, Dr. Seuss initially said that some goddamn funny-looking creature guy who does not have a name — and looks a little like the Cat in the Hat but not really — did not like green eggs and ham. CNN reported that fact as if that was the conclusion of this landmark book. However, that was not the whole of what happened in the book. Even though all we had to do this morning was read the book and report what, in the end, it concluded, we didn’t do that. We screwed up. Geeze, were we stupid or what?"
So much for our fun parable.
Our favorite real reaction to CNN’s coverage debacle yesterday was this funny tweet from Damon Lindelof, co-creator of the television show "Lost," who, according to The Huffington Post, tweeted that "I am not turning off CNN until they TELL ME GORE WON FLORIDA!"