Use horror stories from Canada, Luntz says. They “do resonate,” he explains. I say think twice about running them. Whenever some anecdote is trotted out about poor care in Canada, it’s wise to remember that the media ran with the horror stories during the last round of health reform, and misled the public. When The New York Times reported that women were waiting in line for pap smears, the Canadian ambassador sent a letter to the editor refuting the claim; but by then it was conventional wisdom that women could not get pap smears in Canada. The takeaway: When some pol makes a claim about rationing in Canada and waiting in line for health care, investigate it. Make a call or two to Canada and find out what’s really going on.

When, in the early 1990s, the claim was made that people in British Columbia were denied heart surgery, I went to Canada to find out. A judge who headed a royal commission investigating the claims told me everyone one of the stories fell apart when Canadians scrutinized them. However, that didn’t stop the American press from repeating them.

Frank Luntz’s message teaches and reinforces what good journalism is all about. Language matters. So use it well.

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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.