Pretend News and the Journal’s War on Obamacare

July 30th, 2013 · 2 Comments · health care reform, journalism

By Arthur Alpert

Was Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar on vacation?

That was my guess on reading the Albuquerque Journal’s latest anti-Obamcare editorial camouflaged as news Sunday, July 21, because somebody else wrote it.

The editors usually rely on Mr. Alonso-Zaldivar for ammunition in the paper’s war against the President’s health care reform that began when it was proposed and continues unabated despite its passage and Supreme Court approval.

This time, however, Journal editors chose a long “Fact Check” by Calvin Woodward, another AP “journalist” allowed by the Washington Bureau to include his opinions in his copy.

Thus, here’s Woodward’s lead:

“Another year, another round of exaggeration from President Barack Obama and his administration about health insurance rebates.”

Get it? Woodward opens his piece with a conclusion. It’s an argument. It may be accurate in every particular, mind you, but it’s not your basic news story.

Knowing that, professional journalists would have moved the piece to an opinion page or, at the very least, attached a label to warn readers.

Journal editors did neither, a reminder to caveat emptor on reading New Mexico’s largest daily.

And Woodward’s piece was not accurate in every particular.

To be kind, let’s say what he wrote about Obamacare’s costs was less than comprehensive.

He ignored, for example, what the Washington Post reported in May:

“California Obamacare premiums: No ‘rate shock’ here”.

That headline ran over a Sarah Kliff report May 23. Need I tell you the Journal never published it? Nah. Truth is, the Journal almost never publishes Kliff.

And that’s worth a tangent. Kliff is the WP’s health policy reporter. I’ve been reading her work for more than a year now and it’s excellent, especially her analytic essays. Our daily has published two Kliff hard news stories, nothing more.

But I understand; hey, if you have AP Washington’s reliably anti-Obamacare editorializing, why confuse matters with fair and thoughtful analysis?

End of tangent, let’s return to Woodward’s ”story.”

It may have been difficult but he also managed to overlook a July 16 story in the New York Times that ran under this headline:

“Health Plan Cost for New Yorkers Set to Fall 50%”.

Fifty percent?

The third paragraph offered an explanation:

“Supporters of the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, credited the drop in rates to the online purchasing exchanges the law created, which they say are spurring competition among insurers that are anticipating an influx of new customers.”

Which might explain why Woodward didn’t include it and why the Journal ran Woodward’s “Fact Check”, so-called, without telling readers he was out to prove something.

Of course, this latest journalistic outrage is nothing new. The Journal is awash in advocacy by commission and omission.

The commission involves inveighing against Obamacare in editorials and opinion pages, as well as larding the so-called news columns with pretend news reports.

Simultaneously, management omits or buries news suggesting Obamacare has virtues.

Given that, what should we make of the full-page ad in the Wednesday, July 24 Journal?

A luncheon/ discussion sponsored by the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce August 1 will center on the UNM Health Sciences Center’s importance to the local economy.

(They may also mention caring for patients; it’s an afterthought in the ad.)

But here’s the nub – speakers include the president of Presbyterian Healthcare, the Mayor and – ta da! – the editor of the Journal.

What will he say? How will the Journal will cover the event?

Will the editor or the reporter note that UNM Health Sciences Center is a creature of our taxes and ask why we tolerate the socialism? Where’s the Rio Grande Foundation when we need ‘em?

Will either confront Obamacare, the law that confirms medicine is a commodity and corporate America the commodity broker?

Will anybody perceive a contradiction between the Journal’s dedication to the welfare of corporate enterprise and its eternal war on Obamacare, which may or may not improve our health but guarantees industry profits?

Oh, the suspense.

PS The original AP story from Calvin Woodward included, at the very bottom:

“Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.”

Should have known Ricardo was a team player. Too bad his game (and Woodward’s and Journal management’s) is not journalism.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Chris Burbridge

    Nice, clear story. Being pretty much from California, it’s just *amazing* to contrast CA’s massive rollout — http://www.coveredca.com/ — to New Mexico’s offering, which is currently: http://www.nmhix.com/

    I realize that CA is a bigger, richer state, but — CA’s site is in 15 languages!! NM does not even have Spanish (!).

    And, 2 of the 4 sections still say, “coming soon”. I have a Burqueño friend who says it’s all part of the mañana culture, but I figure it has more to do with a republican governor doing all she can do sabotage the program before it has a chance to succeed.

  • Bill Tiwald

    The Urinal’s war on Obamacare has been sickening.

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