Repeated television interviews last week featured consumers with cancelled insurance policies. After Michael Hiltzik of The Los Angeles Times and Paul Waldman of The American Prospect quickly debunked the horror stories, it became clear that the television journalists failed to do more than turn on the camera and say, “Golly” and “Oh, really? Wow.”
It is doubtful that a single television reporter asked any of these people four crucial questions: What did their old plan cover? Did they go to the exchanges? If the premiums were cheap, were the co-pays and deductibles affordable? Did they qualify for subsidies? We regret giving frightened consumers platforms to air uninformed complaints without ever performing what would be recognized by experts as “journalism” until the cameras were turned off. The answers to these questions revealed that the real horror story was how insurance companies could get away with junk policies that left consumers exposed to financial ruin until Obamacare came along.
Journalism’s apparent inability to ask follow-up questions, challenge assumptions and debunk lies has left the country in a bit of an uninformed tizzy about its national and financial security. All of this would have been simple to prevent had journalists had checked their facts before polluting the news with false information.
However, researching a subject can get in the way of achieving the ratings usually attained through sensationalizing falsehood and ignorance. We regret the errors, but we can’t promise it all won’t happen again next week. After all, we hear Sally Struthers has written something about Benghazi that’s really dynamite.
Jason Stanford is a Democratic consultant who writes columns for the Austin American-Statesman and MSNBC.