Friday, May 8, 2009

Why so little media attention to single-payer?

Washington's cold shoulder to single-payer health care is bad enough, but the media's failure to cover it is inexcusable. Eight people, representing organizations that 20 million Americans belong to, were arrested at Tuesday's Senate Finance Committee hearing — protesting that not one single-payer advocate was invited — and as far as I can tell, no major news organization covered it with more than a few paragraphs, if that. Not nationally, not here in Chicago, where Physicians for a National Health Program, one of the sponsors of the protest, is based, and not in the cities the protesters are from. Of course, I don't know where they're from, because no news account told me. None mentioned that the protesters were arrested, not merely ejected.

This Op-Ed on MSNBC's The Ed Schultz Show is the only major media attention to the event I've been able to find.

I know the media are currently preoccupied with intensive navel gazing over the dying news industry, but let me tell you, journalists, you'd better get out there and cover issues people care about before you're out on the street with no health insurance, like me. Go down to Stroger Hospital and spend a day in the ER seeing what it's like.

Meanwhile, I do wonder how well single-payer advocates are engaging the media on the issue. Were news media alerted this protest was going to happen? Were press releases sent out afterward, detailing who was arrested and their bios? (I'm not seeing this information on the websites of the organization involved.) Were releases sent to hometown newspapers as well as network TV? Are advocates creating relationships with reporters and giving them timely information and news? As in anything else, squeaky wheels get the grease in news coverage.

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