October 1st, 2010 10:53 EST
The Press Played a Major Role in The Public's Confusion About Health Care Reform
Public`s confusion about health care is press`s fault
Craig Perkins, who operates as a discerning news aggregator for friends, just sent me this headline and first paragraph.
Kaiser Poll: More Than Half of Americans Confused About Health Reform
ABC News` Huma Khan reports: Six months after the passage of the health care law, more than half of Americans are still confused about it, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released today.
Will it occur to Huma Khan and the television infotainment-mongers that the story here is the disgraceful failure of the press to make sure Americans understand the health care legislation? The story is not the Kaiser poll, as ABC would have us believe, the story is that the press, granted the right to use public airwaves and given Constitutional rights, should so abjectly fail to do its job.
The press has not failed to waste our time and poison the atmosphere with gratuitous violence. It has not failed to give us the same tired, predictable faces every Sunday morning. It has not failed to whip up dissent and help polarize the electorate. It has not failed to trivialize American life. But when it comes to our health it has failed to perform the simple task of raising the public consciousness about some of the most important legislation in our time.
The press, print and electronic, will respond that it has reported the health care reform legislation in detail. But that is not the point. Once is not enough. The press has an educative responsibility. If it makes sure we know to a certainty that Sarah Palin has an unerring talent for non sequitur, that Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan are inclined to get in trouble, that Mel Gibson is capable of mean-spiritedness, why is it so difficult to make sure we understand health care reform?
If we had had as much reportage about the ramifications of health care legislation as we have had about Sarah Palin or the ordinary weather, the Kaiser poll would not come as a shocker.
I`m an old newsroom hand. I hear the apologists say it`s hard to make legislation interesting. But that`s bullshit. What is as dramatic as some 50 million Americans living in poverty and being turned away by medical services? What is as dramatic as the nation`s squalid refusal to honor its commitments to veterans? What is as dramatic as mortality rates that now resemble those of the Third World? What is as dramatic as the blatant fact that the web is filled with war games, games of violence, while you can hardly find a game about curing diseases, painting a great painting, serving the poor, or showing some plain old Christian compassion "in this most churchgoing of nations?
It didn`t help that Democrat scaredy-cats and Republican obstructionists produced a piece of legislation that could delight only lawyers, lobbyists and insurance companies. But it`s the salient points the public doesn`t get. And even if it hadn`t been a daunting task to make sure the public understands, it certainly would have helped if the press had done a decent job challenging lies and half-truths about the legislation
Will it occur to ABC that something is horridly wrong with this picture? Why should this be an elusive ill to address? All the press has to do is start writing stories that clear up the confusion. Been there and done that? Bullshit. ABC and its peers should be ashamed of themselves, having to report this Kaiser poll. Its message is undeniable. They have no right to our airwaves, having failed us so miserably. They have no right to keep on stirring pablum and calling it news.
Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.
His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, poemeleon, The Same, and other journals. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.
Del`s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal LattÃ©`s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother`s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt`s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com