One of the altos in our choir has a lot going on in her life. Her daughter got the swine flu. Her husband the tenor got sick, too. His mother has Alzheimer’s and was just in the hospital with severe cardio problems. Etc, etc.
So she talked to one of her friends about it, and her friend talked to another friend, and that friend was a reporter for the Dayton Daily News who wanted to do a story on health care as a lead-up to the State of the Union speech this week. So my alto friend talked to the reporter about her troubles, got her picture taken, and so forth. Apparently they had a nice chat about health care, about which the alto is knowledgeable, and about financial stuff, which is her business.
Then the reporter asked her whether she supported ObamaCare, because it would help out her situation. She said no, she didn’t support ObamaCare; and that even if she didn’t have ideological problems with it, none of the provisions actually would improve her situation, and would actually make the money tighter in some instances. Again, she provided examples in detail. She’s that kind of woman — studies up and likes to tell you all about it. And why not? You need to be a detail person to do financial work.
Well, the newspaper story came out this week. They got her town wrong. They said her daughter lived with them, when she’d told them all about her daughter’s nice condo; she’d only stayed with them during the swine flu episode. They told everybody how old she was in the lede. They made it sound like she was starving to death, simultaneously panicking her friends and her customers into endless calls and offers of money and help. They didn’t say her husband the tenor makes a really good chunk of cash, working directly for the Ohio Supreme Court at their facilities, and that she’s doing pretty well herself, which is why they can manage care for two chronically ill people in the family. And they said she would benefit from the health care bill, even though she’d documented that she wouldn’t, with figures down to the last penny; and they didn’t say she didn’t want the bill as it stands.
It was a good story just by giving the facts. The “contradictions” would have made the story stronger, and it would have interested people regardless of their politics. But once again, you got a reporter who wasn’t interested in fact-checking, but was interested in puppeteering.
All the reporter had to do was do a good job with the basics, and everything would have been fine. (Though including her true age as the third word in the first sentence… was not… well-thought out.) Instead, he tells a whole bunch of people not to trust him and that he doesn’t care about other people’s ideas; and makes more trouble for a lady who’s already got plenty.
The really sad thing is that the guy who wrote the story was not a cub reporter. He’s written books. He ought to have known better. But he didn’t. (I believe the word is “putz”. Though I’m sure I could think of some worse ones.)
Anyway, here’s the moral of the story. There are folks out there with good work ethics and journalistic morals, but you probably won’t get interviewed by one of them. (Murphy’s Law.) So… no matter who you are or what opinion you hold…
Never trust a reporter: always bring a recorder. Be prepared to broadcast what you really said.