Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander observes:
The Post publishes health-care reform stories almost every day as it tracks the twists and turns of the epic debate. So it’s surprising to hear from so many readers who ask: Why hasn’t The Post explained what this is all about? […] In my examination of roughly 80 A-section stories on health-care reform since July 1, all but about a dozen focused on political maneuvering or protests. The Pew Foundation’s Project for Excellence in Journalism had a similar finding. Its recent month-long review of Post front pages found 72 percent of health-care stories were about politics, process or protests. […]
It’s not for lack of interest. About 45 percent of Americans surveyed by the Pew Research Center for People & the Press recently said they have been following the health-care story more closely than any other.
But nearly half of those surveyed this month in a nationwide poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation said they are “confused” about reform plans.
This is, of course, the media’s characteristic flaw. The bulk of reporters and editors at major political media institutions have almost no understanding of substantive public policy issues. And they conjoin to their ignorance a kind of contempt for people who do understand them. Consequently, people who are interested in such matters tend to be driven out of the institutions in questions. Instead, you get a self-replicating cadre of self-congratulatory and shallow people who enjoy doing this kind of coverage while sneering at people who care about substance.
The bias toward process stories is not ideological in its intent, but it’s strongly ideological in its impact. Creating public confusion and ignorance while obscuring what’s really happening tends to favor elites versus people of modest means, it favors the status quo over change, it favors insiders over outsiders, and it favors narrow interests over the public interest.