Cohn’s reform-minded blog comes to an end

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The New Republic‘s Jonathan Cohn, an AHCJ member, announced Monday that he’s closing up shop at The Treatment, the “crusading” pro-health-care-reform blog he’s run since 2006. Cohn will keep blogging and writing for the magazine, but seems ready to close the reform chapter of his health care reporting and hang a big “mission accomplished” banner across the widely read blog.

Cohn used the occasion of this semi-farewell to reflect on the course journalism has taken during the reform debate, and to contrast it with prior experiences, most pointedly Clinton’s push for health care reform and his own magazine’s notorious role in the debate. In particular, Cohn considers the changes brought on by “new online media” and bloggers like himself and The Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein, with whom Cohn says he collaborated as much as he competed.

In addition to The New York Times and CNN, there was the Huffington Post and Talking Points Memo. The change didn’t fully register with me until the night the House passed the Senate health care bill, clearing reform for presidential signature. Sitting up in the House media gallery, next to Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown, I looked around at my colleagues—and realized how few of them would have been there last time around.

Was this a change for the better? I’m biased, obviously, but with some important caveats I think the answer is “yes.” We (i.e., the new online media) could generally channel policy expertise more quickly. And we could, in some cases, dispense with conventions of even-handedness—conventions that cynics had long ago learned to exploit for their own purposes.

Writing for CJR.org, AHCJ Immediate Past President Trudy Lieberman praised Cohn’s blog, but took the opportunity to remind journalists that, while a reform bill may have passed, that doesn’t mean there aren’t myriad issues related to its implementation that will need intense coverage and scrutiny in the coming years. She also talked to Cohn and found that he isn’t leaving the game entirely.

Cohn told me that when health reform was the political story of the day, the magazine “could afford to let me write on that subject exclusively and dedicate an entire blog to it. Now that it’s no longer topic A, it makes sense for me to write about some other things.” He said he will be doing just that. While the magazine is officially retiring The Treatment as a blog exclusively devoted to health care, Cohn and The New Republic are talking about creating a new blog that will include health care coverage.

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