“Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar.”
~ Edward R. Murrow
Long before the advent of the Internet, Edward R. Murrow, the newsman who stood up and exposed the lies spread by Senator Joe McCarthy in the early 1950s, understood that while “the speed of communication is wondrous to behold, it is also true that speed can multiply the distribution of information that we know to be untrue.”
Murrow was right. Today, as traffic on the information highway has picked up speed, it often seems that, the Information Age that we celebrated in the 1990s has become an Age of Misinformation .
Today, not only CBS, the network that brought us Murrow, but the media as a whole seems to have forgotten his plea to his fellow journalists: “Just once in a while, let us exalt the importance of ideas and information.”
The Media and Obamacare
When it comes to covering the Affordable Care Act (ACA), not only televison networks but our major newspapers have fallen far short of Murrow’s fearless standards. Instead of ideas and information, the mainstream media serves up opinions and anecdotes.
Tall tales about “Obamacare’s victims” have become standard fare. In recent months I have deconstructed two faux fables: one that appeared in the Ft. Worth -Star Telegram,(URL), another that aired on CBS stations nationwide.
Let me add, I am just one of many skeptics who have taken a close look at some of the “ginned-up stories” that, as the Los Angeles’ Times Michael Hiltzik puts it, “have led millions to think that a program manifestly in their best interests is something bad.”
Hiltzik detects a pattern: “What a lot of these stories have in common are, first of all, a subject largely unaware of his or her options under the ACA or unwilling to determine them; and, second, shockingly uninformed and incurious news reporters, including some big names in the business, who don’t bother to look into the facts of the cases they’re offering for public consumption.”
In some cases, it is clear that writers, editors, pundits and producers are purposefully slanting the news. Fox News comes to mind. But in many other cases, the problem seems to be sheer ignorance, combined with a striking lack of interest in the most important piece of legislation to have passed congress in roughly 45 years.