This Newsday commentary by Lane Filler appeared in my local paper Thursday. I sent the author an email attachment and CC’d the head of their editorial department. Here’s my attachment, verbatim. Read it after you look at the column.
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I just read your 12/5/13 column in my local paper under the rubric of “Media are too easy on the emperor.” After a lengthy and largely inaccurate screed about what drives the average journalist (my news background includes major market radio, TV anchor/reporting, newspaper, academic and ongoing contributor to a national website), you claim that the ‘mainstream’ reporters on health care restructuring “seem to have taken a dive for their beloved.”
Surely you jest if you propose that President Barack Obama is being given a pass on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). There is no law entitled Obamacare by the way. That snide, simplistic and offensive ACA reference, is used by the uniformed and certain columnist as a subtle racist ploy because polls show that when Obamacare is used as the health care title, numbers skew several percentage points lower on the approval/disapproval gauge than when the law is referred to as the Affordable Care Act.
You then reach for your absurd perception of the hypothetical media treatment of Obama’s 2012 Presidential foe, Mitt Romney, had Romney become president. You consider what the reaction would have been under the parallel scenarios if, six months after his inauguration, the Republican announces he’s decided that “the mandate on his corporate buddies to cover workers is postponed.” In fact, Romney would have somehow eliminated the mandate altogether and it wouldn’t have taken six months. It’s a moot point. After that pronouncement, you add that five months later, all those outlawed “substandard” policies that insurance companies loved to see are again for sale, thanks to Romney alone. In the interest of accuracy and context, substandard means the policies don’t include ACA mandates.
On the other hand, the more substandard and tilted toward industry profits the policies were, the happier Romney would have been and the “mainstream” media, mindful of insurance ad dollars, would have largely remained silent, not even remotely “gang-tackling” Mitt as you suggested.
You go on to ask, quote: “So why has the spotlight on Obama’s moves been so dim.”
DIM??? Let’s reduce your conclusions to something you can relate to. You once worked in various capacities at a paper called the Spartanburg Herald Journal in Spartanburg, South Carolina. So, I’m assuming the SHJ meets your criteria as a member in good standing of the mainstream media. I must also assume that you feel their spotlight has been “dim.”
Allow me to do the research that apparently you eschewed. In the last year alone, there have been nearly 50 SHJ AP stories about ACA that could be considered anti-Obama. There has been an endless stream of ACA attacks from right-wing columnists carried by the paper. Fully 95% of editorial cartoons have been anti-ACA and anti-Obama. A feature called “Other voices” carries about the same percentage.
Local editorializing is virtually always filled with vitriol when addressing any issue to do with the president, the HealthCare.gov website and/or ACA. Hardly a day goes by that the paper doesn’t present ACA in the negative in one or more of the above formats. The affirmative pieces are limited to the rare progressive columnists who appear from time to time. The right-wing, mostly Malkin-clone extremists, significantly outnumber the left. Dim? Truth be known, the overall media spotlight equals about 100 million candlepower shining directly on each trash-Obama health care story.
As for Romney; puleeze! If anybody ever deserved the full force of a law enforcement investigation into his ‘paper the world with hidden money history’, it’s Romney. Get serious.
But I digress. The following are but a few of the ‘dim’ headlines that have appeared this year in SHJ, your former place of employment that is now a Halifax Media newspaper.
Let us begin our sample headlines with one pair of quotation marks at the beginning and one at the end. “Clinton to Obama: Keep your promise; Senators glare at Obamacare; Obama’s health care problems propel Republican hopes; Health care law is at risk; Physicians fleeing new system; Health plan worries Democratic governors; Exchanges under health law create confusion for Medicare recipients; Poor to be stuck in health care gap; ‘Obamacare’ divisions may hit poor; Senator sees ‘train wreck’ for health overhaul; Delay stirs worries about Obama health law; Obamacare site under scrutiny; More SC residents lose insurance; Obamacare battle not over; GOP says Obama indifferent; Health law’s rule delay could harm enforcement; Glitches taking toll on sign-ups; Poll: Exchange rollout gets poor reviews;”
Time to take a breath. There! Now, let’s soldier on: “Cruz again raps Obama’s health care law at summit; Health reforms pressure primary care doctors; Insurance website closed to small businesses; GOP duo continues ploy to starve ‘Obamacare’; Insurance shopping likely to be tougher than predicted; online tools not ready; Coverage expensive in federal program; White House reveals low health care sign-ups; Insurance companies dropping plans; Obama says he’s sorry Americans losing insurance; Insurance for employees’ families in jeopardy at small companies; Elderly might see high Medicare premiums; White House denies labor union request for health plan subsidies; Low-wage workers could get left out in health overhaul; Health insurance policies face cancellation; Builders of health website saw red flags; Sleeper fee gives $63 jolt to employers; New health issue on horizon; Keeping preferred doctor, hospital seen as next challenge. Gingrich: Repeal health care, eliminate new rules and fire czars; Obama: No excuse for website glitches; Insurers worry young people will opt out of health insurance.”
I think I counted three 2013 AP stories that could be considered positive reports about ACA supportive of Obama; THREE! And AP has a nationwide footprint. AP.org claims service to about 1,400 papers and thousands of TV and radio news operations. In addition to AP news stories, most SHJ editorial opinions mirrored this one, “Obamacare still a mess.”
As for your description of Obama as emperor or king, what is the origin of this insult? There’s an inherent humility and civility about this man that runs so deep as to have actually done harm to the Republic in his zeal to make government all-inclusive in his repeated attempts at bi-partisanship. To suggest otherwise would infer that Barack is maybe a little too ‘uppity’ for your taste.
Could that be the problem, Lane?
Here’s what needed to be written. The media was all in as the Obama administration was blind-sided by greedy insurance companies that decided to reject all or portions of 10 perfectly reasonable mandates. Outside private contractors displayed astonishing incompetence and the red states overwhelmed the system by handing all the duties of running their Health Insurance Marketplaces to the very federal government they purport to despise.
So, if Obama is king, Lane Filler is the Court Jester, heartily juggling propagandized “facts” for the entertainment of HIS corporate buddies.
So, that’s my attachment. Think it’ll get past the intern?
Postscript: Lane Filler responded back!
First off, thanks for taking the time to read and respond.
No, I don’t think he’s uppity. I say he is acting like an emperor or king because he’s unilaterally decided he can change the law Congress passed and he signed, that says the corporate mandate is in effect in 2014 and substandard policies cannot be sold in 2014. He has no power to suspend those laws.
At no point does my piece attack Obamacare (which the president himself now calls the ACA on occasion, and says he’s proud to.)
My piece defended Obamacare against the president’s attacks on it.
Have a great day,
Raised rural & small town, then lived in N.Y., Chicago & LA. Widely traveled. Returned from world wandering to pursue media life of anchorman/reporter and major, medium and small market talk radio. Highly active in politics. Once worked as orderly & security in Mens Lock Ward for the Criminally Insane at a state institution. Much more rational population than current Teapublicans. Great concern for country run by and for the extreme wealthy. The inhumane current running through this country has no precedent in modern history.
Follow me on Twitter @demwriter
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