Best of 2010: Trudy Lieberman

Lieberman picks her top stories from 2010

Social Security in the Heartland series: All year the media ignored how “fixes” to Social Security pushed by political elites would affect ordinary folks. The nine profiles of people living in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, tell the tale. Our New Year’s wish is for the media to pay attention to people like them.

More Words of Wisdom from Alan Simpson: As co-chair of the president’s deficit commission, the former senator from Wyoming continued to make offensive, arrogant, and condescending remarks about retirees, women, and the poor whom he called the “lesser people in society.” Simpson got away with it, perhaps because the president wanted him around so his remarks could set the premise for next year’s showdown on Social Security.

A Tale of Two Jonathans: Throughout the health reform debate, the media turned to a handful of sources, in effect giving their audiences a one-dimensional view of the issues. MIT economist Jonathan Gruber was one the media called on too many times. Jonathan Oberlander, a political scientist from the UNC, was one they didn’t call on enough.

Bob Reich on the What-It-All Means Question: The elements of the health reform law sprang from conservative orthodoxy, and were pushed by conservative think tanks for years before a Democratic president embraced them as his own. The president thought Republicans would be on board. Given the results of the midterm election and what may follow, he may have misjudged. Until former labor secretary Robert Reich put all this in its rightful context, the public may still have thought socialized medicine was at hand.

The Best-Covered News Story, Ever?: An academic in health administration at the University of Chicago writing in The New Republic argued that “health care reform was the most careful, most thorough, and most effective reporting of any major story ever.” We begged to disagree. Was that why most Americans didn’t know about the individual mandate until the courts started taking a look?

A Fresh Take on Health Care: The AP’s Carla Johnson did some digging, and guess what? She found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, more people will use emergency rooms despite health care reform, and that ER congestion isn’t likely to end. Guess what again? Emergency room use continued to rise in Massachusetts, even with its widely hailed health reform law. During the debate, the press missed on this one. The uninsured were not really responsible for significant ER use in Massachusetts.

Social Security Under Attack: Until the last few weeks, the media allowed few new voices to talk about Social Security and its contribution, or lack thereof, to the deficit. News outlets reported that elite consensus had formed about the correct solutions without signaling that others might have different opinions. Reporting on Social Security has not been the media’s finest hour.

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Trudy Lieberman is a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR's healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. She also blogs for Health News Review. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman. Tags: , , , ,