Washington Post reporter Perry Bacon reacts to the finding by his paper's ombudsman that about 85 percent of Post articles about health care reform have "focused on political maneuvering or protests":
Washington, DC: Hi Perry,
So even the Post's own ombudsman says that the paper's coverage of health care reform has focused way too much on politics and failed to explain the policy issues to the American people. How are you going to change your own reporting, in light of the ombudsman's conclusions?
Perry Bacon Jr.: I think we've had excellent coverage of the some of the major issues. Ceci Connolly wrote an excellent piece about end of life counseling, Alex Macgillis has wrote several smart pieces about the public option and had a great outlook piece laying out the bills themselves. Joel Achenbach took a smart look at the legislative process to write the bill. Shailagh Murray wrote about some of the medicare reforms. Could we write more? Of course. But I think and Andy agreed, we have to cover the politics as well.
So, confronted with evidence that the Post has focused overwhelmingly on politics rather than policy, and that the public doesn't understand the basics of health care reform, Bacon turns his Ombudsman's finding that the paper hasn't done a good job of explaining the policy into an endorsement of the coverage of politics. Smooth.
The bottom line is that the mass confusion about health care makes a strong prima facie case that every news organization could do a better job of explaining the basic facts. When that case is augmented by data showing that 85 percent of a given outlet's coverage has been about the politics rather than policy, the only reasonable response for an employee of that outlet is "We must do better." Instead, they all too often get defensive, pointing to this article or that. Fine. Let's say every article Bacon referred to was excellent -- a dubious assumption, but let's make it. The fact remains: The Post must do better.