Finishing The Treatment

The New Republic ends its health care blog

Campaign Desk was sorry to see Jonathan Cohn’s last post on The New Republic’s health reform blog, The Treatment. Cohn made a valuable journalistic contribution during the health care debate. He tells us that the magazine had signed him up to help crusade for universal health care, a slippery term that came to mean allowing millions of Americans to buy private health insurance, rather than creating a truly national health insurance system like those found in other developed countries.

While Cohn often said he preferred a national, single-payer type system, he supported the direction reform took, and in his last post he acknowledged that he had spent a lot of time defending the health care reform bill as it moved through Congress. Readers always knew which side of the fence he was on, furthering the mission his magazine had laid out for him.

He was always quick to correct his assumptions and mistakes. Last year I was on a panel with him sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Cohn told the audience he never hesitated to correct something he reported that later turned out to be wrong, a commitment to journalistic excellence that I greatly admired. The speed of the blogosphere makes all of us fallible, and too often mistakes go uncorrected.

His final post talked about how online journalism is “an ongoing, evolving conversation—one in which it is easier to hash out and refine arguments. Those of us covering politics and policy today can make as many mistakes as our predecessors did. But perhaps we have more opportunities to become aware of those flaws and to correct them.”

Cohn told me that when health reform was the political story of the day, the magazine “could afford to let me write on that subject exclusively and dedicate an entire blog to it. Now that it’s no longer topic A, it makes sense for me to write about some other things.” He said he will be doing just that. While the magazine is officially retiring The Treatment as a blog exclusively devoted to health care, Cohn and The New Republic are talking about creating a new blog that will include health care coverage.

Cohn is right about the ongoing, evolving conversation that the Internet lets us have. But just because the health care horserace is over does not mean that coverage of health care is finished, too. More than ever, we need bloggers, the MSM, and even niche publications to interpret reform and keep an eye on the health care marketplace that politicians have enshrined as the crux of the U.S. health system. We have an important watchdog function ahead of us, and Cohn says he plans to follow health care implementation and legislative modification very closely. That is good news.

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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.