I promise: my post immediately following this one will contain good news. It will at least make you smile, and it might, if you're a certain kind of person, prod you into irresistible curiosity.
But first, we have to talk about the bad news. And I mean literally Bad News.
This from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)'s radio program As It Happens:
Health News Review-dot-org is a health-journalism watchdog group that rates [American] news coverage for accuracy and balance. The group has just announced that it will continue to watch TV news segments, but it will no longer be grading the quality of those segments. And part of the reason for the decision is that most TV health coverage is bad -- and showing no signs of getting better.
In the show's interview -- which I heard last night -- with Health News Review publisher Gary Schwitzer, a professor of journalism at the University of Minnesota, Schwitzer gets straight to the point: Most American TV news coverage of health issues (including health care reform) is now so bad that it is no longer worth reviewing or rating. It's gotten to the point, says Schwitzer, where most news coverage of health topics literally does more harm than good. The problem, he says, is twofold: a proliferation of light, fluffy, lifestyle "news" about new drugs, treatments and gizmos; and a failure by reporters and TV hosts to ask the basic questions that journalistic ethics require: what is the evidence for medical gain versus risk, what is the cost versus the benefit, how sound are the claims of success or the pronouncements of failure, and so on. Schwitzer is quick to add that there are still many journalists who want to provide real news coverage on health issues -- but he says his interviews with such reporters found them stymied and frustrated by the junk-news protocols they are forced to follow.
So -- as a 2003 media study showed about Fox News and the Iraq War, and as Al Franken once said -- The more you watch, the less you know.
This is not good: A nation dependent upon poor journalism for its news about health care, while a president and his party back nervously away from the crucial issues of the debate.