Rovner included quotes from supporters of the health reform law, who argued that making the marketplace function better is a “big smokescreen.” And this: she reported that GOP analysts see the argument against universal coverage as an effective political tactic that is “like class warfare.” How? “Republicans want to paint the healthcare law as requiring people who already have health insurance to help pay for those who don’t.”

There was a tiny bit of he said/she said in the pieces, but Rovner weighed the arguments, and a reader/listener came away with a clear understanding of her thesis.

A few months ago NPR released a new ethics document that aimed at ending he said/she said stories that offer false equivalence—presenting “all sides” of an issue to create an appearance of balance rather than the best version of the truth. NPR’s ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos told me the document was an “evolution” of existing policy. He said sometimes reporters had been “hiding behind the rules,” and “so long as you didn’t violate the rules it was okay…He said/she said is a perfect example.” Judging from Rovner’s stories, the document is evolving in the right direction.


If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

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.