Beyond the Fiasco: Is the media’s ObamaCare coverage one-sided?

These are the stories the embattled White House wants to see more of:

Henrietta Dean, a Kentucky grandmother who had to put off thyroid surgery, is “very excited” that she can get her operation now that she’s qualified for Medicaid, says the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Lissie Stahlman is saving 50 percent on her insurance premiums after signing up through a toll-free number, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Paul Cello says he’s saving $300 a month with his new policy, reports San Francisco’s KQED: “The coverage is better … a lower premium, no pre-existing condition exclusions, I get mental health coverage, so there’s way more coverage than I had and I’m going to be saving.”

These are legitimate news stories about folks being helped by ObamaCare. They are being covered mainly by local news outlets (though such national outlets as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have also dipped into these waters). But these occasional pieces have been utterly overwhelmed by reporting on the downside of ObamaCare: the botched rollout, the dysfunctional website and millions dropped by their insurance companies.

As the White House sees it, the media criticism of the program is warranted, but the other side of the story is barely being told at the national level. And that, officials believe, is presenting a distorted picture of the program.

Obama himself alluded to this view at his news conference by saying: “Part of this job is the things that go right, you guys aren’t going to write about; the things that go wrong get prominent attention.”

But let’s put this in perspective:

At least 3.5 million people have been booted from their health plans—the president’s proposed “fix” is unlikely to help most of them--and millions more have been unable to get on the ObamaCare website or to sign up there.

By contrast, about 100,000 people have successfully enrolled in the new exchanges, and another 400,000 in the expanded Medicaid program. So in terms of sheer numbers, those who are suffering or stymied by the program are far more newsworthy.

And then there’s the question of expectations. A health care law designed to extend insurance coverage and federal subsidies to millions of people is supposed to work; that’s not big news. That the program’s rollout was horribly botched and that millions are losing their coverage despite a president’s explicit promise to the contrary, that’s big news.

The media should not lose sight of those being helped by the Affordable Care Act, but there’s a reason those aren’t the dominant headlines.

Cheney vs. Cheney

I bumped into Liz Cheney yesterday before her appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” I told her it wouldn’t be long before Chris Wallace asked her about a poll showing her down 53 points to Mike Enzi in the Wyoming Senate race.

But a much more telling moment came when Wallace asked Cheney about her opposition to same-sex marriage—in light of the marriage of her sister, Mary Cheney, to Heather Poe.

The vice president’s daughter said she loved her sister Mary, but “this is just an area where we disagree.”

That, as the New York Times notes, brought a sharp rejoinder.

‘Liz – this isn’t just an issue on which we disagree, you’re just wrong – and on the wrong side of history,” Mary Cheney, who is gay, wrote on her Facebook page.

“Ms. Poe’s comments were sharper and more personal. ‘Liz has been a guest in our home, has spent time and shared holidays with our children, and when Mary and I got married in 2012 – she didn’t hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us,’ Ms. Poe wrote on her own Facebook page. ‘To have her say she doesn’t support our right to marry is offensive to say the least.’”

That’s got to be tough, when your political position causes such pain for a member of your own family, and she feels the need to hit back.

Killer Gets a Pass

I have rarely read a better example of local journalists missing a big story:

"We've been hearing the warnings for years now," Vincent Duffy, chairman of the Radio Television Digital News Foundation, wrote Thursday. "At journalism conferences, in the trades, and amongst ourselves we've heard some variation of this: 'If newsrooms keep cutting reporters, while demanding higher story counts, and measuring story success by web-hits, important news is going to start falling through the cracks.' Admittedly when we say it, it sounds more like, 'With fewer people and more to produce, when are we supposed to cover the news?'

"The election results last week in Flint, Michigan provide a perfect example of what can happen when 'the media' [don't] do their job well. On election day, voters in Flint's fifth ward elected Wantwaz Davis to be their representative on city council. Davis beat the incumbent by 71 votes.

"The day after the election, the Flint Journal reported, for the first time, that Davis was a 'convicted killer' who served 19 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in 1991.

"Yes, you read that correctly, a convicted murderer was on the ballot for city council, and the local newspaper/website, and the local ABC and FOX affiliates, never reported his past until the day after Davis won. (Full disclosure — as a nearly statewide radio station, Flint is also in my station's listening area. We do not have a reporter there and have been trying unsuccessfully to raise money to create that position.)

"Newly elected Councilman Davis makes no effort to hide his criminal past. In fact, helping felons who served their time find employment was one of his campaign issues. All a reporter had to do to discover his past was Google his name and scan the items that came up on the first page. Davis also told one of my reporters that he told voters about his past when he canvassed door-to-door, and it came up during a debate sponsored by the NAACP.

"But it never came to the attention of the newspaper or its political reporter. It wasn’t even mentioned in a now comical looking story by Dominic Adams that the newspaper published under the headline: Everything you need to know about the Fifth Ward Flint City Council race. . . ."


Liz Cheney’s same-sex sister spat