Tools of Misapprehension

July 30th, 2015 · No Comments · health care reform, journalism, role of government, social safety net, war and peace

By Arthur Alpert

That the Albuquerque Journal makes most news decisions politically is so obvious it’s become (borderline) boring. Yet the skill with which the editors wield their tools to produce the paper’s daily misapprehension of reality still fascinates me, as does the relentlessness of the effort.

By tools, I mean headlines, where stories run, editing of copy, ignoring or minimizing stories, carrying other stories ad nauseam, printing opinions or leaving them out. Hiding the real source of opinions, too. In combination, they produce the Journal’s narrative (or management gospel) which is advocated newspaper-wide.

This substitutes for journalism, which – emphasizing questions, not answers – probes for what is happening and inquires why.

In this context, misinforming readers is merely a by-product of the Journal’s drive to print The Truth.

Today, for example, Thursday, July 30, on A5, the editors published a piece on the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of AP’s Washington Bureau. As regular readers know, he’s been the go-to-guy for trashing Obamacare for years.

This time, however, Alonso-Zaldivar, while hardly gushing, noted both programs’ achievements in the first few paragraphs. Problem – if the editors wrote a headline the conventional way it might say something positive about those programs.

The Journal’s headline writer’s solution was to go down to paragraph six for this sentence:

“But the long-range solvency of both programs remains cloudy.”

He or she then wrote this rubric: “Medicare, Medicaid face challenges as they turn 50”.

That’s true. It’s not news, of course, but who cares?

Certainly not the political commissar who seized on the non-news for the main headline and then wrote a second deck that also ignored what Alonso -Zaldivar almost said, that Medicare and Medicaid have made many, many American lives better.

We cannot have that!

This isn’t to say that Alonso-Zaldivar’s account was flawless. He also wrote:

“A mix of tax increases, benefit cuts and reductions in payments to service providers will be needed sooner or later, experts say.”

Unless, of course, we replace the expensive fee-for-service model, crack down on medical equipment crooks and quit appeasing Big Pharma, to name (off-the-top-of-my-head) a few cost-saving measures.

Funny, isn‘t it, that the reporter’s sources cited none of those options and the Journal editor never questioned his list?

I’m kidding. There’s nothing funny about this. It’s habitual in the  Journal’s war against journalism.

Let’s compare the Journal’s treatment of the 50th anniversary with the N.Y. Times’ approach. Reporter Robert Pear wrote:

“As Medicare and Medicaid reach their 50th anniversary on Thursday, the two vast government programs that insure more than one-third of Americans are undergoing a transformation that none of their original architects foresaw: Private health insurance.”

I had forgotten that what was intended to be government health care became, under Democratic and Republican administrations, a corporate health industry. Which development the Albuquerque Journal ignores.

The Washington Post took another tack. Nancy Szokan reported (“Medicare and Medicaid Mark a Milestone”, July 20) on essays by Princeton and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation experts reviewing Medicare and Medicaid at 50.

Scholarly stuff, un-exciting, but Yale professor Mark Schlesinger’s study caught my eye. At first, he wrote, when the elderly became politically engaged with Medicare, many assumed they would wield their clout to promote their own interests. But no:

“Compared to younger Americans, elders have always been less supportive of expanded benefits for their age group and more concerned about the burden those benefits might place on younger taxpayers.”

Whoa! Who’s going to tell Robert Samuelson, whose screeds on my generation’s war on kids the Journal publishes ad nauseam.

Now, at this point, I intended to move to the issue of the Iran nuclear agreement, where the Journal, demonstrating its usual sense of decency, has run umpteen opinions dumping on it – including several misrepresentations of history (including today’s George F. Will essay) and one passionate cry for war (the “Christian” Cal Thomas) to two in favor, including today’s Op Ed by Sen. Heinrich. And then I was going to move along to the issue of the front page, showing how the editors use it politically.  But this Medicare thing has run too long.

OK, just two quick items. The day after my July 2 post on the Journal’s awful coverage of the GOP presidential candidates the editors ran an AP piece headlined, ”Ohio’s Kasich running for President”.

Well, they ran some of it. The Journal version cut off after a graph on Kasich’s praiseworthy privatization and “business-style innovations.”

You should know AP reporter Julie Carr Smyth’s original included rebuttals. Unions, she wrote, “say Kasich’s successes have come at a cost to local governments and schools, and say new Ohio jobs lack the pay and benefits of the ones they replaced.”

“As a marching band kept up a spritely cadence before Kasich spoke,” she continued, “scores of demonstrators gathered across the street to protest his cuts to the budget and to school districts specifically, as well as his closing of centers for people with development disabilities.”

Once, long ago, I might have entertained the notion the editors cut this for space. No more.

Oh, last thing. Did you know the Koch brothers’ American Legislative Exchange Council just had its annual meeting in San Diego? Jeb Bush attended, urging that we “phase out” Medicare.

You read neither in the Albuquerque Journal. The Washington Post carried two Koch political network stories today. WaPo is editorially conservative, but management separates editorial page and reporting.

What a waste of a newspaper, Journal management must think. Or so I surmise.

Tags: ············

No Comments so far ↓

There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment