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Sunday, August 16, 2009

••◊ Skewed Perspective

I've been actively watching the discussions regarding health insurance reform lately. What really troubles me is the skewed perspective given to the american public by major media corporations. When the nightly news comes on you see citizens angry and yelling at politicians. Passive observers may be lead to think that the majority believe that this is the wrong direction for America. In reality the statistic is that 27% of Americans currently oppose one or more of the four bi-partisal drafted proposals being developed in congress. It's one thing for a documentarian to push an agenda, but it's completely another to have a news organization that is supposed to maintain journalistic integrity to have an agenda.

Take for instance my last post of the
Ranchos womens' racing team. I could have editted together a very selective video showing the women stuttering their sentences and made the video about them failing to finish the race. That wasn't my agenda. I wanted to show them as the competent racers and intelligent individuals they are. Having worked on a documentary before and seeing enough of others' work you realize that most documentaries aren't told from a neutral standpoint because you want to make people passionate about the story. When news organizations cross this line, such as is typically done with Fox News, what we end up with is a mis-informed public opinion that leads to doubt. When people have sufficient doubt they tend to vote no by default. Let's face it; those citizens who are too lazy to take the time to understand the truth behind something as fundamentally shifting as health insurance reform are more likely to accept their favorite web site's/news channel's headlines and five second flash of disturbing images.

The headline grabbing part of this equation comes from bitter Republican politics, such as those from former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. She recently went on the attack telling the public that the administration will allow end of life councelling (i.e. "death panel") in the bill. This provision, which since has been removed, was initiated by *Republican* Senator Johnny Isakson. Palin's objective is to promote fundamental Republican-ism by denouning the provison as belonging to Obama, not reform health care. Of course news organizations latched on to this headline and showed town hall meetings where citizens were screaming at their senators about this very subject. Did the news show the real discussion? No, but that wouldn't have made for as interesting of a five second video.

The Democrats have been less than perfect as well. The government accountability office (GAO) says that the current set of plans are not budget neutral, as President Obama has said in recent media statements. The President has also recently claimed that the AARP has endorsed his plans, but in reality they haven't yet. I watch one of his town hall meetings in Colorado yesterday where he made this claim again. The meeting was broadcast on C-SPAN, which tends to have fairly neutral (but borning) coverage of government affairs. With a neutral presentation of the public discussion at least only the political rhetoric remains.

Surprisingly the most neutral coverage I have seen recently is the PBS show "Bill Moyers Journal." Despite the show's documentary facade, he brought on generally neutral experts to discuss the points of the proposals. Maybe this has something to do with not having to sell E.D. drugs and soda pop every 15 minutes.

The point of this post isn't to push my opinion of health insurance reform; it's to understand the difference between a documentary and journalism. Good journalism is neutral, a good documentary generally isn't. I am personally disconcerted that the major news organizations have chosen to cross that line which seems un-democratic and, as such, un-American.

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