Joel Gehrke of the Washington Examiner reports the media can look too close to power: “Reporters with the Society of American Business Editors and Writers received 'training' on how to cover Obamacare's rollout from a policy expert who works with President Obama's former health information technology adviser.”
On the group's blog, SABEW executive director Warren Watson had announced “a two-day symposium in Chicago for 18 reporter fellows who will go through immersion education in the nuances of the ACA.” He approvingly quoted Mike Barnicle from MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” comparing Team Obama to the World Series-winning Boston Red Sox:
Commentator Mike Barnicle, remarking about Boston’s earlier World Series win, used a metaphor on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” He likened the early problems of the ACA to a baseball team falling behind in the second inning. Well, our seminar is designed to look beyond the early inning and gird for a long season.
That's right. Reporters are encouraged to see themselves as pom-pom shakers for Obama winning this health-nationalization game. Gehrke reported on a seminar before the symposium:
The Commonwealth Fund's Sara Collins claimed during the training that Healthcare.gov's chronic dysfunctionality does not signify "deeper issues" with the law.
"I don't think it signifies deeper problems, I think it is a website issue," Collins told SABEW during the Oct. 28 training seminar.
Her optimistic take on the law's difficulties is unsurprising since she works for an organization led by David Blumenthal, who was President Obama's national coordinator for health information technology from 2009 to 2011. [See the two spin furiously on the rollout here.]
What is surprising is that an organization claiming to represent professional journalists would endorse "training" delivered by advocates for the program they are covering, which would violate SABEW's code of ethics.
That code encourages journalists to "avoid any practice that might compromise or appear to compromise objectivity or fairness."
SABEW didn’t return Gehrke’s calls for comment. But the SABEW website explains the Commonwealth Fund is the financial backer of these sessions:
The Commonwealth Fund awarded a $35,000 grant to the Society of American Business Editors and Writers to develop the symposium, as well as three other education events in the second half of 2013.
SABEW and Commonwealth have teamed up before to offer specialized education in healthcare reporting. It is the sixth such grant the Commonwealth Fund has awarded to SABEW, which has conducted a dozen open workshops and other activities on the business of health care under Commonwealth’s sponsorship since 2007.
The Commonwealth Fund is described as “a private foundation that aims to promote a high-performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society’s most vulnerable, including low-income people, the uninsured, minority Americans, young children, and elderly adults.”