The common thread? Missourians were pretty sure health care reform wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, but still weren’t willing to vote “yes” in the state’s referendum on opting out of the individual mandate.
Lieberman added a concrete dimension to her main street opinions by prying details on income and expenses from her sources, numbers and ideas which she then used to link their stories to the larger themes surrounding reform implementation.
Keep an eye out for part two of the column, which should be coming soon.
AHCJ Immediate Past President Trudy Lieberman took issue with that in a post on CJR.org.
Better coverage than the Vietnam War; the civil rights movement; the consumer movement? Really? In the case of the civil rights struggle, the press helped change the discourse; Americans began to view race in a new way, which led to the eventual passage of the Civil Rights Act. During the Vietnam War, the media effectively changed the public dialogue from a war we couldn’t lose to one we could not win. In the early days of the consumer movement, media coverage of Ralph Nader led Congress to enact significant consumer protections. Coverage of health reform has hardly risen to that level.
Lieberman writes that health care reform coverage failed because the public was inadequately educated on the finer points of reform efforts. Her evidence? That public opinion was roughly split on reform. Had reporting been better, Lieberman writes, public support levels would have been higher. She then brings up a number of issues she says were undercovered and uses examples to back them up.
For advice from Lieberman and three other journalists on the front lines on what needs to be covered next and how to approach this complex topic, see this special tip sheet.
It’s all interesting stuff, especially when he discusses how his background in mathematics has helped him report on sports injuries and medicine, but the real payoff comes when Cunningham finally gets Schwarz to divulge his personal stance on concussions in youth football. It’s a crystallization of all Schwarz has learned, as well as a delicate balancing act between his personal and professional ethics.
CJR: Let’s assume for a minute that your son, who you said is three years old, is actually ten years old and he is clamoring to play Pop Warner football. Would the fact that you would then have to decide disqualify you from covering the story?
Schwarz: No, it wouldn’t disqualify me, though of course that’s up to my editors. But there is something about working here—and I’m not saying we’re better than everyone else, blah, blah, blah—but there is something that really inspires you to do the right thing, and to do the thing that helps you to cultivate the trust that allows readers to take you seriously. So I would probably let him play because if I didn’t it would compromise the reporting. It would compromise the trust that others and even the league may have in me. Now, I would not send him out to slaughter, but getting one concussion is not that big of a deal—it just isn’t. And to suggest otherwise is incredibly irresponsible. So if my kid gets one concussion then yeah, he doesn’t play anymore probably. But to not allow him on the field is, frankly, an overreaction. And if I didn’t allow him to play then yeah, it would be harder to cover the story, if only in my own mind. I believe that the cost to others of my not being able to cover this story as well would be greater than the cost of my kid getting one concussion and never playing again. I’m a very mathematical guy. I follow certain precepts. And those are the things that make sense to me. And I can’t tell my kid he can’t play, because then what am I going to tell the league? What am I going to tell my editors? It doesn’t work. It’s dissonant.
Lieberman said that once she made the jump to blogs and embraced the new format, her “work only got better.” She let loose and relied on her experience and reporting skills to “cut through the BS and be totally honest.”
The discussion includes a number of technical writing tips for bloggers, as well as a stern reminder that blog posts must be reported just as exhaustively as any other sort of journalism.
In an even-handed critique, Reddy disputes STATS’ attacks on popular anti-BPA source Frederick vom Saal’s credentials, but agrees that the media has been overly reliant on the University of Missouri scientist. Reddy also points out the fine line between placing more importance upon larger-scale, more valid studies (many of which are industry-sponsored) and identifying the conflicts of interest which may or may not exist alongside those industry connections.
In the end Reddy concluded that the conflict was a confusing one, but that as long as they brought a healthy dose of skepticism and took an extra look at the methods and materials sections of the research they were consulting, reporters should be able to give it fair coverage.