The significance of all this is not whether Goodman is an official adviser to McCain. No doubt his views dovetail with those of McCain. On the Center’s Web site last weekend, a box website labeled “Goodman Health Plan” sent readers to a document that discusses health proposals, some of them adopted by the McCain campaign. What is relevant, however, that a major newspaper fell down on the job of newsgathering, and the blogosphere generally missed what Goodman was doing—planting doubt about the need for serious health care reform, which is antithetical to conservative interests.

An insurance industry insider recently told me to start looking for such mainstream media story placements by conservative think-tankers like Goodman; people who try to change the tone or substance of the public discussion on health care in ways that mesh with the ideology of their funders, who may be health care stakeholders, businessmen, or corporations. You will see this accelerate once there’s a Democratic nominee, he added. That time is now. We urge reporters at the Dallas Morning News and at other news outlets to be on guard. The John Goodmans of the world can have their say on the op-ed pages or in advertisements. News columns should explain what some of these ideas really mean—in this case, that the Census numbers are for real.

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and 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. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.