Re "Just the 'facts' fails us all," Opinion, Aug. 23
Neal Gabler's article on the crucial role of journalism in shaping public knowledge and opinion is pitch-perfect. He points out how important it is that the media do more than just report that "he yelled" and "she screamed" but actually evaluate the truth (or lack) behind the pronouncements and accusations of opinion-makers.
Whether the media actively contribute to an informed citizenry or passively allow demagogues to dominate issues is critical to the future of our nation.
I would add one more item: Huge corporations have come to dominate ownership of public media, and for so many of them, journalism must function as a profit center rather than a vital public service. Investigation is costly; parroting is cheap.
Not rocking the boat is essential to selling detergent; being willing to rock the boat is essential to the free flow of ideas.
Gabler's thesis seems reasonable enough until he reveals his animus to anything but conventional liberal thinking.
Barack Obama was certainly an attractive candidate, but he had a lot of negatives that were completely glossed over by the mainstream media. Any other candidate with this baggage would have been put under a microscope.
The same thing seems to be happening with the healthcare debate. Actually, there has been a lot of reasoned commentary that has taken place outside of the mainstream media, which does not seem capable of reasonably objective analysis.
Barry F. Chaitin
I much appreciated Gabler's article on the importance of the media's role in disseminating objective, contextual information, not just reporting events. I bemoan the lack of context and appropriate perspective given to news reporting. Especially with complex issues, the need to remind readers/listeners of historical context and competing relevant information is vital. The constant replaying of extreme and inaccurate views helps no one.
As a primary-care internist in private practice, I am dismayed that there has been very little reporting on the current private insurance inequities. On a daily basis, I have patients who are refused medications or tests or who are denied coverage based on often inappropriate decisions by private insurers. I rarely have trouble with Medicare.
When the public worries about the "public option" and possible "rationing" of care, it is important to emphasize that rationing is being done already in a much more capricious and less visible way by our current insurers.
So Gabler's "facts" include Jon Stewart being the nation's most trusted newsman and the American public's desperate need of more "truth" from the mainstream media. With a thinking system like this, it's no wonder he is in favor of the government-run option to solve our healthcare problems.
Only in Gabler's altered universe is it considered good policy to force millions of citizens who are happy with their current healthcare into a failing government-run system like Medicare, which rations care, underpays for services and is in deficit.
Facts are needed in this debate, but apparently Gabler isn't the one capable of delivering them.
Thank God Gabler has provided us with his "teaching moment." The insurance industry, right-wing militants, cable news, conservative radio talk shows and Republicans, in general, are responsible for the lies and disinformation about the Democratic healthcare bills.
What we need is the mainstream media to fulfill its rightful role; and by the way, that media is not liberal, according to Gabler, rather they are in fear of "the right" and just plain lazy.
I would suggest Gabler and his journalistic cohorts read the scores of fact-filled, thoughtful healthcare articles that have appeared in the Wall Street Journal over the summer. He just might find some of the truth he seeks.
Rancho Palos Verdes
Gabler correctly points out that the media simply report "he said, she said," with no reference to the basis of those statements in reality.
Although this is true, I think there is a deeper problem at work here.
First, Americans take political stances as religious doctrine. Thus, statements about the government's inability to accomplish something are automatically received as truth by a large number of people, no matter what any evidence might say and even when those same people are on Medicare or receive government subsidies.
Second, Americans rarely examine data. Our collective distaste for looking at charts and numbers is crippling us. Less than 20 minutes' worth of Internet searches led me to find out how much other countries are spending on healthcare per person. I was also able to find out the kinds of healthcare systems in each country. The evidence is clearly in favor of government healthcare.
But don't believe me -- look at the data.
The writer is an associate professor of mathematics at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
Gabler is guilty of the very things he accuses Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin of. He accuses all participants in the town hall meetings of being alike -- evil people telling lies. How does he know they are lying when there has been no intelligent discussion in Congress, made up of members who in general haven't even read any of the many different versions of healthcare reform?
We know the system is broken and it has to be repaired, but we are not impressed with what we have seen in Washington.
Harold L. Katz