Jon Stewart’s Monday night rant included a very important statement about the media’s role in society.
“Fact-checking is the the function of news,” he said. “That is the public service they provide.” Tongue-in-cheek, he added, “That’s why the debate over health care has been so fruitful.”
Unfortunately, CNN, the premier news provider on cable, has not been adhering to its duty. As Stewart points out, too often CNN anchors and hosts end conversations early without asking for citations about where certain facts and figures come from.
Take Republic Senator Jon Kyl’s claim that medical malpractice reform could yield savings of $100 billion to $200 billion. Try, half to one-quarter that amount.
According to a Reuters article last week, “Limiting medical malpractice lawsuits could save the U.S. government $54 billion over a decade, congressional budget analysts said on Friday…” CNN’s John King did not question Kyl’s number at all. It’s understandable CNN has to quickly get into commercial breaks, and King was probably busy listening to his earpiece instead of Kyl, but should not CNN have someone in the newsroom watching the broadcast, analyzing every interviewee’s statement?
Tony Perkins, President of a conservative organization known as the Family Research Council, had no idea how many uninsured people there were in the United States. He dropped the number as low as five million to 10 million. CNN’s Tony Harris provided some blabbering thoughts, saying something along the lines of that there was not a consensus number and left it there. “Why leave it there,” Stewart calls out. “There is a terrible place to leave it!” Stewart is exactly right.
In fact, there are 46 million uninsured people in America, according to Census Bureau statistics. Part of the problem is the number of Americans uninsured in America is actually lower. That’s why NPR has issued a suggestion to its stations to say “people” not “Americans when talking about health care reform.
CNN brings two people to the screen, has them explain their views and then leaves it there. After the presidential debates, they devoted much coverage on-air and online to analyzing the President’s statements. So, why doesn’t this happen after these mini-debates between political experts? Is it too hard to have someone sitting at computer with Google revved and ready to go?
Offering 24/7 coverage of news, CNN commands a great audience that deserves the service the station promises to offer. It’s seem to often that CNN is in rush to end the debate and let illegitimate statements stand as they may. But I won’t leave it there.
Many people expressed anger yesterday when during an interview CNN’s Wolf Biltzer failed to follow up on a statement made by balloon boy that he had been told to do it “for the show.” The ambiguity of that phrase remains unresolved. Are these hosts not listening to what is being said? I have no answers, so I’ll leave it there.