Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Social Security Press Coverage

Nice job, Press Democrat. For reasons that are murky at best, but probably have a lot to do with placing transaction commissions into the hands of wealthy and influential Wall Street brokerage houses,the Bush Administration has been laboring mightily to advance the notion that there is a Social Security “crisis.” The Santa Rosa Press Democrat's Tuesday front page story, “Bush plan urges cuts in Social Security” might as well have been written by the White House press office, for all of the actual reporting that went into it. In a remarkable display of balance, the story managed to cite not only “several Republicans close to the White House,” but also an analyst at the Heritage Foundation and even a “former senior administration official. Nice job; they covered the spectrum from conservative to very conservative. Oh, a particularly nice touch was the headline after the jump, “Social Security: Change would save trillions of dollars.” Of course, given the subject of the article, that the Bush administration is preparing a plan that would cut future retirees’ Social Security payments by about half, the headline after the jump could at least as aptly have been “Social Security: Change would cut trillions in benefits.”

Meanwhile, in the New York Times today (yes, I know, it will show up in the PD, a Times paper, in a day or two), Paul Krugman goes into detail explaining that Social Security is not endangered, much less in crisis. I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Krugman, but I also recognize that he is a columnist, presenting his opinion, albeit a well-informed opinion, and many people when reading their paper give more credence to “straight” news stories than to opinion columns.

I understand that PD writers don’t produce this stuff, stories about national issues like Social Security. The paper gets it from the wire services and other papers, in this case the Washington Post. Nonetheless, don’t they owe it to their readers to put forth some effort to present this issue (as well as other issues of importance) in a more straight forward, a more complete and competent manner? I don’t think their coverage shows a bias. I think their coverage shows the press’s general inability to understand and cover complex stories. I wish they would try harder.
Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com