Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Columbia Journalism Review: "Why We Need Stronger Coverage of Covered California"

The California Press Gets a Critique It Has Long Deserved

Covered California, the Obamacare state-run health insurance exchange, has long been the subject of occasional posts on this blog––none of them flattering.

The constant spin in the face of facts that comes out of Covered California and the way the press, particularly in California, has often just reprinted that spin hasn't been appreciated here.

I am happy to report––and admittedly relieved––that it isn't just me that thinks the reporting has been less than objective.

But would you believe that conclusion would have come from the esteemed Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) in a story titled, "Why We Need Stronger Coverage of Covered California"? The journal is part of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

In past months I have pointed out that:
And then there was former CBS News Emmy winning investigative journalist, Sharyl Attkisson, with her two part expose, "Incompetence, Mismanagement Plague California's Obamacare Insurance Exchange" and "Insider's Detail Culture of Secrecy at California's Obamacare Exchange" on The Daily Signal, that filled in the details behind all of the high expense, poor consumer service, and now dismal enrollment results for the more than $1 billion taxpayers spent in California on that Obamacare exchange.

All of this time hardly a critical peep came from the California press and it sure looked to me like they were all happier just to reprint Covered California's upbeat press releases.

In her Friday story, the Columbia Journalism Review's Trudy Lieberman said the following:
In recent months, Covered California has cited each of these measures ["good" enrollment news] to tout its success. And though outside analysts have raised some notes of caution, press coverage has largely followed the lead set by the exchange. The result is coverage that has too often been reactive, short on enterprise, and with missed opportunities to ask some necessary questions. Covered California may ultimately have a success story to tell––but it will need to face some sharper skepticism before we can be sure.
And also from the CJR story:
It can be exhausting to sort out all of the different metrics, and the state's healthcare reporters have had plenty of other stories. But going forward, the exchange warrants closer scrutiny than, for the most part, it got this year. And while reporters should definitely be attentive to outside evaluations both critical and positive...there is a role for journalists to play, too, in getting out there and talking to people...
With all due respect to Lieberman, I would have said it more succinctly to the press: Just do your job.
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