Monday, June 25, 2012

Supreme Court to issue decision on health law Thu.; Poynter's Al Tompkins offers guide to covering it

The Rural Blog is designed mainly for rural journalists, most of whom are interested mainly in local issues. But every now and then a national issue is so broad and deep that it affects everyone, and calls for localized coverage everywhere. That is the case with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on the federal health-reform law, which is to be released at 10 a.m. EDT Thursday.

As he so often has, Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute anticipates an opportunity for coverage and provides advance help for doing it. Tompkins is a broadcaster by trade, but he's also a policy wonk and offers a rundown of the issues that almost any journalist would find helpful. "The public has said that journalists spend too much time covering the politics of the story and not enough time and space covering what the health care plan does and how it affects them, Tompkins writes. "Let’s fix that."

First, he points us to "an easy-to use tool" from The Washington Post that shows how the law affects you. Then he runs down the three big issues in the case (the individual mandate to buy health insurance, the various reforms in health insurance, and the expansion of Medicaid); Republicans' main objections to the law; what might happen under various scenarios; and fact-checking by PolitiFact, a service of the Tampa Bay Times, which is owned by the Poynter Institute. We also like and the Post's Fact Checker column.

"The decision will immediately be a national story, a legal story, a political story, a business story, a health care story and a local story," Tompkins writes. "Let’s make sure you are ready to cover it."

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