Friday, December 31, 2010

Mis-reported stories of 2010

As usual, national, regional and local media did a poor job in 2010 in keeping Americans informed about what matters.

Typically, the media would report about "controversy" without first reporting what the issue was. In looking for conflict, no matter how minimal and inconsequential, the media mis-informed viewers, listeners and readers.

Check this list for some examples.

On health care, the media focused on Republican complaints without first telling Americans what health care reform was about. Consequently, we heard plenty about so-called "death panels," and not much about how reform would benefit the vast majority of Americans.

We're already seeing benefits in the fact that x-rays and MRIs are placed in a database for all doctors to see without having to order repetitive and costly x-rays, MRIs or CT scans.

Yes, there are court cases out there challenging the legality of the health care reform law, but almost all of them have been tossed out. One lawsuit in Virginia is moving forward that challenges the government's authority to require people to buy health insurance.

Well, news flash, the government already requires that drivers buy auto insurance. Also, workers have deductions for Social Security whether they want these deductions or not.

Should the High Court toss out this compulsory insurance provision in the health care reform law, such a ruling will logically lead to lawsuits challenging auto insurance mandates and Social Security.

Won't that be wonderful.


Why can't mainstream media explain such fundamental facts?

The issue of taxes is an area where every level of mainstream media failed to inform citizens what was at stake.

For some context, in 1970 the top 1 percent controlled 9 percent of the wealth in this country. Today, that same group controls 25 percent of the nation's wealth.

In Oregon, we had Measures 66 and 67 that increased taxes on the rich and on businesses. (In 1990, through Measure 5, the property tax burden shifted from businesses to individual homeowners.)

The media's take on the these tax measures was that it would lead to an exodus of businesses and the very rich. Of course, none of that has occurred. Quite the contrary, the opposite happened. Businesses are expanding in Oregon and the state is attracting new businesses.

Still, the local paper went on a successful crusade to oust our state Rep. Judy Stiegler from office as well as her husband, D.A. Mike Dugan, because they were outspoken supporters of the tax measures. We lost two tremendous public servants who are being replaced by individuals with dubious track records, if any at all.

On the national level, the extension of the tax cuts to the ultra-rich means that taxes will increase for the poor. Is that not counter-intuitive? Would the media report this fact? No.

Yes, the stock market indexes are rebounding, but most 401ks are not. Where is this money going? Don't you think the media should investigate? Well, they won't, because waving pom-poms is their No.1 priority where business matters are concerned. (Check this story for more examples.)

As for the collapse of the housing market, the media is fixated on the government's role, but not banks' despicable actions.

For example, banks now approach cities and counties and buy up their properties with delinquent taxes. The municipalities get their tax monies, and the banks end up seizing properties for a fraction of what their worth.

In essence, we're experiencing the greatest land grab since the Great Depression.

Part of the reason the media turns a blind eye to this kind of story is that their chief function is to be cheerleaders for growth at all costs. This fact is one of the main reasons we are wallowing in the dire economic straits that we find ourselves in.

Locally, the media formed one of those cheerleading pyramids to promote growth and now report how the city of Bend is $20 million in the hole after the ridiculous growth we experienced this decade. Don't you think the media should connect the dots between unbridled growth, low taxes/fees and failing infrastructure?

They won't, because they're not really capable of reporting on such a complex story. The mainstream media needs black and white, right and wrong, Republican and Democrat. If a story falls outside those tracks, it falls through the cracks.

We are then left with an uninformed electorate and in Fox News case, a mis-informed viewership. (Can we create a "death panel" for Fox News panelists?)

As long as the media tailors news to the lowest common denominator, we will all eventually become the lowest common denominator.

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