Tackling Issue of Reform

Apr 12, 2009  •  Post A Comment

The national debate on health care reform is heating up, but the role the media will play in furthering the discussion remains to be seen.
During the Clinton administration, the debate quickly devolved into emotional advertising and spin. And Gary Schwitzer, associate professor at the Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communications and author of a recent Kaiser Family Foundation report on the state of health care journalism, doesn’t expect much from this go-round.
“Those types of ads have already begun, largely from conservative forces that will battle any kind of meaningful health care reform,” he said. “If their pockets are deep enough to create or satellite media tours and have smart-sounding people who are glib in 15-second soundbites travel the country, this debate won’t be much of a debate.”
With layoffs of health care journalists at print and TV outlets, there are even fewer cool heads to keep the debate alive and on track. “Journalists are more outgunned than ever before,” said Andrew Holtz, an AHCJ board member and former CNN medical reporter. “The health care industry hasn’t slashed the budgets of their own PR machine to the extent that newsroom have cut back on their staff. So there’s more temptation to rush to air without the kind of thorough research you would like them to do.”
Trudy Lieberman, AHCJ president and director of the health and medicine reporting program at the Graduate School of Journalism at City University of New York, said it’s hard to find journalists who regularly cover such issues as Medicare on a local level. “The issues in Washington are not reaching the man in the street and aren’t being written about on a local level,” she said. “I don’t see much on TV that people are covering in terms of reform issues.”
Covering health care reform with TV’s 45-second story format is nearly impossible, said the experts, signaling the likelihood that on-air coverage of health care reform will be limited.
“It’s not visual and it’s complex,” said Mr. Holtz. “It’s easier to do a story about your own hospital that has a new gamma knife; you can crank that out with very little resources. But the story on the impact of health care reform requires time to devote to research. The tighter newsroom budgets are, the first thing that gets cut is the tough stories.”
But he rejected the idea that the health care reform story is impossible to illustrate visually. “You can find local people who can illustrate the story,” he said. “The key is knowing who those people are. You can talk to … someone from the Chamber of Commerce who can crystallize, synthesize the comments of their members.”
Not everything is grim. After speaking to several health care journalists, Mr. Holtz has found reason for some cautious optimism. “A lot of the reporters were around during the Clinton years and learned the lessons, and that will hopefully raise the level of reporting,” he said.
Mr. Holtz pointed to a CNN story in February on the stimulus package’s provision that funded comparative research on medical practices. CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and anchor Heidi Collins interviewed Betsy McCaughey; they identified her as a “Republican and former New York lieutenant governor,” but failed to mention she was one of the major players who helped torpedo the Clinton-era health care reforms. In the interview, Ms. McCaughey railed against the reform as tantamount to health care rationing.
However, two days later, Ms. Lieberman revealed all on the Columbia Journalism Review’s Web site, calling the report “a piece of bad journalism that ranks among the most irresponsible health stories I’ve seen over the past year.”
“It helps to completely identify those people who are making claims about health care—their backgrounds, their affiliations and other factors,” she said. “Reporters and anchors should … refrain from passing on messages of groups with interests in reform one way or another, without further explanation of where these messages are coming from and why.”
Ms. Cohen, who earlier spoke to TVWeek for this NewsPro report, could not be reached for comment on the McCaughey interview at presstime.
The local ramification of national reform is a compelling reason for local stations to cover the topic, Ms. Lieberman said. “[Reforms] may mean that a lot of people who don’t have health insurance will be required to go out and buy it. It’s not as interesting as some new CAT scan machine where you can show a doctor in a white coat. But these are really important issues. It calls for creative work on the part of the TV producer.”


  1. How ya doin, Thought you should know that this particular page is not showing up properly on my BlackBerry Browser (I have a Pearl). Besides, I’m now visiting this website on my pc, thank you

  2. You should write a similar list of websites for people who enjoyed this. I found your site two days ago when I was googling, unfortuneatly I’m not really into the blog scene. I don’t think it’s because I do not fancy blogs, but just because I’m a bit slow to them.

  3. You should give a similar list of blogs for people like me. I discovered your blog two days ago while browsing, however I am not really into the blog thing. It’s not because I don’t like blogs, but probably due to the fact that I’m slightly ignorant to them.

  4. You should write a suggestion of websites for people who enjoyed this. I came across your blog sometime last week when I was googling, but I am not really into the blog thing. I don’t think it’s because I don’t enjoy blogs, but probably because I’m a bit ignorant to them.

  5. Sorry for the huge review, but I’m really loving the nfl, and hope this, as well as the excellent reviews some other people have written, will help you decide if it’s the right choice for you.

  6. Use a Ardour Method of Recognize/Reevaluate/Restore in site of your Need to have whirlwind.

  7. I would like to start my own blog one day. This was a really nice blog that you made here. Keep up the success 😛

  8. I would like to start my own blog one day. This was a really nice blog that you made here. Keep up the success 😛

  9. High quality info here! Keep up the great work. I love the feelings being expressed.

  10. Nice!! Great Ifo. Great People. Great Blog. Thank you for all the great sharing that is being done here.

  11. Great wordpress blog here.. It’s hard to find quality writing like yours these days. I really appreciate people like you! take care and see you soon

  12. I really like the colors here on your blog. did you design this yourself or did you outsource it to a professional?

  13. I like your blog.

  14. Interesting thoughts here. I appreciate you taking the time to share them with us all. It’s people like you that make my day 🙂

  15. Interesting layout on your blog. I really enjoyed reading it and also I will be back to read more in the future.

  16. Greetings. First of all – fantastic blog! Secondly this article was also good and interesting to read, but I don’t think everything you have said is completely true. I will need to google about few things you have mentioned in your artcile to make sure. But anyway thanks for trying and good luck on writing other articles. P.S sorry for bad English, I aren’t English native speaker.

  17. Nice blog here! Also your website loads up fast! What host are you using? I wish my website loaded up as fast as yours lol

  18. Hey how are you doing? I just wanted to stop by and say that it’s been a pleasure reading your blog. I have bookmarked your website so that I can come back & read more in the future as well. plz do keep up the quality writing

  19. Hey, really enjoyed this post! Shed light on a few things I didn’t understand. Thank you.

  20. Took me moment to study every of the commentary, but I in fact enjoyed the commentary. It proved being in truth obliging to me with I am positive to every the commenters here! It’s usually fine whenever you can not just be informed, but in addition entertained! I am helpful you had pleasing writing this write-up.

  21. I love the journalism relevancy of your site and it does a nice-looking decent work of presenting the info.

  22. Neat blog layout! Very easy on the eyes.. i like the colors you picked out

Your Comment

Email (will not be published)