The AP reporter had a brief interview with Santorum, but it’s not clear he asked those questions. Instead the story reported that Santorum offered “only modest details on how he would implement his proposed changes.” The reporter asked Santorum if changes should be made now. “I think we should, yeah,” the candidate said. “Obviously we’re going to have to go through a debate next year and figure out ways in which to make the revenues meet the expenditures.” How’s that for noncommittal rhetoric? The AP reported, though, that Santorum said he didn’t favor higher taxes or more deficit spending to shore up Social Security. Did that mean he supports Obama’s payroll tax holiday and making it permanent? Dot connection, please! The story did tell readers that Santorum “has not said how much money he hopes to save” with the changes he is contemplating. Put that in the “nice-to- know” category.

It would have been better to make Santorum expand on his point that those over age sixty-five are the wealthiest group of Americans because Social Security has pulled the elderly out of poverty. Yes, Social Security did that, but such a broad statement is misleading when you consider the wide swaths of poverty still existing among the elderly especially older women. One third of all beneficiaries now rely on Social Security for at least 90 percent of their income. The median income for older women receiving Social Security is about $15,000, for men about $26,000. The average monthly Social Security benefit is about $1200. That may not be a princely sum to the inside-the-Beltway crowd, but to someone who exists on that amount, even a $50 or a $100 cut means something substantial. Does Santorum believe those Americans must sacrifice too? Context, please!

Fry is correct. We need more red meat. The AP provided only a couple of bites.

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.