Wednesday, August 05, 2009

TV stations keep raking in cash for ads on health; where's the reporting to help viewers sort it out?

We asked last week if local TV stations, boosted by sales of ads to both sides in the health-reform debate, would devote some resources to reporting the reality of the legislation instead of leaving the debate to misleading messages. Ben Pershing of The Washington Post has a story today updating the landscape, reporting that $52 million has been spent so far. Much of that has been on cable channels, but much has also been placed with local stations, so we're still asking. If you know of a station that has lived up to its responsibility, please let us know, and we'll tell the world.

UPDATE, Aug. 6: Al Tompkins of The Poynter Institute, a broadcaster whose tips can usually help print reporters too, urges local news outlets to cover health-care protesters at town-hall meetings being held by members of Congress during the August recess. But he also urges them to fact-check the protesters' claims, through such sites as PolitiFact, operated by Poynter's St. Petersburg Times, or a site maintained by The Washington Post. There's also FactCheck, run by former CNN and Wall Street Journal reporter Brooks Jackson at the Annenberg Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. It has no separate health page, but is easily searchable. Get the facts and pass them on.

UPDATE, Aug. 7: One of our favorite business columnists, Steven Pearlstein of The Washington Post, says critics of health reform have gone too far: "There are lots of valid criticisms that can be made against the health reform plans moving through Congress -- I've made a few myself. But there is no credible way to look at what has been proposed by the president or any congressional committee and conclude that these will result in a government takeover of the health-care system. That is a flat-out lie whose only purpose is to scare the public and stop political conversation." That's opinion, but it shows how much we need more reporting of the facts.

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