Here's how Washington Post reporter Ceci Connolly describes the AMA:
The AMA, with about 250,000 members, is the nation's largest physician group.
Connolly doesn't give readers any context for that number. She doesn't tell readers that 250,000 is less than a third of the 800,000 or so practicing doctors in America. Or that the AMA membership figures include medical students and retired doctors, who account for about half of AMA's members. Connolly doesn't tell readers that the AMA gets at least 20 percent of its budget from drug companies. Nor does she tell readers the AMA has long opposed meaningful health care reform, and even opposed the creation of Medicare.
Instead of giving readers useful context about the AMA, Connolly quoted a doctor taking a political shot at President Obama:
But immediate reaction to Obama's speech Monday illustrated that it will not be easy to neutralize some of the powerful forces that helped defeat previous attempts at health-care reform.
"He's a wonderful speaker, and he told us what we want to hear," said Norman Dunitz, a Tulsa hip and knee surgeon. "The question isn't what he said but what he's going to do. He has a reputation of shifting sides."
Look at that quote closely: Connelly doesn't quote Dunitz saying anything about health care. It's just a political attack on Barack Obama. Norman Dunitz, by the way, has made campaign contributions to far-right Republican Senators Jim Inhofe, Tom Coburn, and John Barrasso, which may explain why he attacked Obama personally instead of saying anything meaningful about health care.
The Wall Street Journal continues its assault on health care reform, warning of "total government control of the health markets." Along the way, the Journal editorial hits the standard conservative media talking points on malpractice "reform."
The Wall Street Journal claims "trial lawyers and their stratospheric jury awards and settlements have led to major increases in the medical malpractice premiums, thus driving up the overall cost of U.S. health care."
But, as Media Matters has previously noted, the claim that lawsuits have driven up malpractice premiums and thus health care costs is overblown:
Malpractice premiums: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has documented the minimal impact that increases in medical malpractice insurance premiums have on overall health care costs. A 2004 CBO report concluded that capping awards at $250,000 for non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits "would basically save only 0.4 percent of the amount that's spent now" on health care. According to the report: "[M]alpractice costs amounted to an estimated $24 billion in 2002, but that figure represents less than 2 percent of overall health care spending. Thus, even a reduction of 25 percent to 30 percent in malpractice costs would lower health care costs by only about 0.4 percent to 0.5 percent, and the likely effect on health insurance premiums would be comparably small."
The Journal then claims that as a result of lawsuits, doctors "practice defensive medicine, ordering unnecessary tests to immunize themselves if they do end up in court. Economists disagree on the precise burden of this legal fear, but some argue that it exceeds $100 billion a year."
Again, Media Matters has noted that these concerns are overblown:
Defensive medicine: As FactCheck.org has noted, claims that "defensive medicine" drives up medical costs -- a principal Bush administration argument for tort reform -- have been dismissed as inconclusive by the General Accounting Office and the CBO. The CBO went further, declaring that there is "no evidence that restrictions on tort liability reduce medical spending."
Morning Joe just hosted Pete Peterson, giving him an opportunity to plug his book and spread his doom and gloom about "entitlement reform." As usual, the reporters present treated Peterson as though he is a Yoda, the Dalai Lama, and their grandfather all in one.
Nobody, for example, asked Peterson about his opposition to health care reform in the early 1990s ("The issue is whether we can afford it. We can't.") Since then, health care costs have skyrocketed, taking Medicare costs with them. So the failure of health care reform in 1993/1994 not only resulted in tens of millions of Americans going without health care for the past 15 years, it also contributed to the soaring Medicare spending that Pete Peterson insists is a crisis.
All of which suggests a second question somebody should probably ask Peterson: Why should we listen to you?
Yes, as Politico's Michael Calderone points out, Huffington Post is asking readers to vote for their favorite White House correspondent:
Current nominees: Chuck Todd, Savannah Guthrie, John Yang, Suzanne Malveaux, Ed Henry, Bill Plante, Jake Tapper, Major Garrett and Wendell Goler.
Henry would like your vote. But some think there are some notable exemptions: Former White House press office staffer Pete Seat wants Chip Reid and Washington Times White House correspondent Christina Bellantoni thinks Mark Knoller was robbed.
Do you think you are fooling people? In this entire article, you never once address what the FAR MAJORITY of Doctors believe. They believe that a nationalized program will be the downfall of coverage and care as we know it. There is no argument there. And all you had to do was look at polls or interview them. It i no secret. Do your job as a jornalist. ...
If you all want to be responsible reporters, then report the facts. The facts are Doctors OVERWHELMINGLY are opposed to a nationalized plan. All you have to do is ask. And to imply that is not the case is hogwash, and you should be ashamed of yourselfs. Unfortunately, your lemming readers will belive it.
Well. I'm no journalist; I'm a media critic. But the reader is correct that responsible reporters should report the facts. And the facts are that, despite what the media is reporting about the AMA's recent comments would lead you to believe, most doctors support national health care:
More than half of U.S. doctors now favor switching to a national health care plan and fewer than a third oppose the idea, according to a survey published on Monday.
The survey suggests that opinions have changed substantially since the last survey in 2002 and as the country debates serious changes to the health care system.
Of more than 2,000 doctors surveyed, 59 percent said they support legislation to establish a national health insurance program, while 32 percent said they opposed it, researchers reported in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
The 2002 survey found that 49 percent of physicians supported national health insurance and 40 percent opposed it.
"Many claim to speak for physicians and represent their views. We asked doctors directly and found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, most doctors support national health insurance," said Dr. Aaron Carroll of the Indiana University School of Medicine, who led the study.
"As doctors, we find that our patients suffer because of increasing deductibles, co-payments, and restrictions on patient care," said Dr. Ronald Ackermann, who worked on the study with Carroll. "More and more, physicians are turning to national health insurance as a solution to this problem."
"Across the board, more physicians feel that our fragmented and for-profit insurance system is obstructing good patient care, and a majority now support national insurance as the remedy," Ackermann said in a statement.
The Indiana survey found that 83 percent of psychiatrists, 69 percent of emergency medicine specialists, 65 percent of pediatricians, 64 percent of internists, 60 percent of family physicians and 55 percent of general surgeons favor a national health insurance plan.
MySpace has become a textbook case of how quickly a digital juggernaut can become a has-been, writes Matthew Flamm. The head of a research firm tells him: "It may be that Rupert [Murdoch] is ultimately a newspaper guy. The idea [with MySpace] may have been, 'We bought you, so make it happen for us.'"
Perhaps Rupert just couldn't figure out how to force one point of view down the throats of a few million users.
Go! Do things internets! I command thee!
Editor & Publisher has an interesting look at how newspaper editors are reacting to the use of popular social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook by their journalists. As you can imagine, newspaper ethics policies for social networking sites are all over the map...
From Editor & Publisher:
The Los Angeles Times issued a list of guidelines in March, while The Wall Street Journal gained attention in May when it expanded its conduct guidelines to include a host of online-related restrictions, including warnings not to "friend" confidential sources or get into Web- related arguments with critics. The Washington Post, just a day later, did the same (as I observe in my story on p. 5). But not everyone is laying down the law on Twitter. Some papers want staffers to take a casual, open approach, while others admit they aren't sure how to police the social media outlets and still allow them to be useful.
Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, started tweeting, albeit sparingly, last month. "I have asked people to use common sense and respect the workplace and assume whatever they tweet will be tied to the paper," he told me. "Even when they are tweeting personal information to their followers, they are still representing the New York Times."
The Washington Post's new policy on social networking sites, created in mid-May, asks users to avoid "verbal fisticuffs with rivals or critics." The paper's policy adds: "In general, we expect that the journalism our reporters produce will be published through The Washington Post, in print or digitally, not on personal blogs, Facebook or MySpace pages, or via Twitter or other new media. We are happy to have reporters post links to their stories or other Post material.
The Los Angeles Times "social media" guidelines make clear that staffers are always representing the paper when they engage in online activities: "Assume that your professional life and your personal life merge online regardless of your care in separating them. Don't write or post anything that would embarrass the LAT or compromise your ability to do your job."
When I asked Associated Press Director of Media Relations Paul Colford about Twitter and Facebook policies, he cited a portion of the AP's "news values and principles," which states: "Anyone who works for the AP must be mindful that opinions they express may damage the AP's reputation as an unbiased source of news."
Perhaps news outlets (print/broadcast/online) should post their ethics policies online. Not just policies as they relate to social networking but the policies that guide reporters in general.
Over the years we've seen numerous examples of media figures breaching the tenants of basic journalistic integrity if not their employers' stated ethics policies. If editors are too busy to police their own reporters, I'm sure the American people would be happy to pick up the slack – on Twitter, on Facebook, on the news pages or on the air.
If you use the social networking site Facebook, be sure to join the official Media Matters page and those of our senior fellows Eric Boehlert, Jamison Foser, and Karl Frisch as well. You can also follow Media Matters, Boehlert, Foser, and Frisch on Twitter.