Serious Newspapers Provide Context to Long-running Issues

February 14th, 2012 · No Comments · health care reform, Uncategorized

By Arthur Alpert

If you visit this site regularly, you know the Albuquerque Journal decides which stories to print and which to pretend didn’t happen based on its editorial agenda, not journalistic criteria.

So you weren’t surprised by Denise Tessier’s report on the Journal’s failure to report that “both houses of the New Mexico State Legislature have now passed memorials expressing opposition to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.”

You probably shrugged, too, when I pointed out last Nov. 9 (and updated Jan. 19) the Journal’s unwillingness to concede the existence of a “grassroots rebellion against several state governors who used the effects of the Wall Street debacle of 2008” to war on organized labor.

Denise and I referred to censorship of whole stories. But that’s not the only arrow in Journal management’s quiver; the editors also omit from published stories background or context that just might contradict its editorial agenda.

This truncation of history is regularly and consistent, apparent in stories as varied as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, jobs, the economy, the deficit and health care reform.

Today let’s focus on that last, specifically the individual mandate that underpins both Romneycare and Obamacare, because the Journal opposes it and former Rep. Heather Wilson faced it boldly in a Saturday, Feb. 11 Op Ed essay:

“I believe,” she wrote, “the Patient Protection Act… is unconstitutional because of its individual mandate.”

Fair enough. Perhaps the Supreme Court will agree. In that case, however – to mention something a Journal reader might not know – the Court will rebuff lots of conservatives and libertarians.

For the individual mandate was, in fact, a product of the Heritage Foundation in 1989. Yes, that Heritage Foundation, the “libertarian think tank.”

And – to continue with the type of background and context the Journal downplays – conservatives and libertarians used to support broad health care reforms.

How many Journal readers know that Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Alan Simpson, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum once were in that crowd? Even Milton Friedman. Or that Friedrich Hayek, the laissez-faire saint, wasn’t totally opposed to “social insurance.”

For a recent, conservative-tinged account, see Avik Roy’s Feb. 7 essay, “The Tortuous History of Conservatives and the Individual Mandate” in (pro-business) Forbes magazine.

It’s true (to be fair) that a daily newspaper has neither time nor space to add gobs of context to a breaking story or even its second or third-day echo.

But former Washington Post publisher Phil Graham’s “Journalism is the first rough draft of history” didn’t excuse papers from providing context to long-running issues.

Serious newspapers do, in fact, routinely slather background on new developments these days, providing not-so-rough drafts of history.

Serious newspapers, that is. Not those whose editorial agenda determines what context will be omitted, as well as what stories aren’t fit to print.

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  • Roland

    The ABQ Journal has totally abandoned its responsibility to inform and educate the electorate in New Mexico. The only positive thing I can say is, it could be worse! My wife’s family is from Oklahoma, so I have become acquainted with the pathetic state of their media. Their “newspaper of record” is the Daily Oklahoman, which is so grotesquely biased that it has become a widespread joke among liberals in that state. However, my sister-in-law has informed us that the San Francisco Chronicle is apparently negotiating to buy out the Daily Disappointment. Amazing! Makes me wonder if there is a remote chance that something similar could happen here in N.M. That is probably the only way that the ABQ Journal’s strangle-hold on the single largest voting block in the state could be remedied.

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