Cable news adds to confusion in healthcare coverage on day one

The Baltimore Sun

If you came to cable news Tuesday looking for hard information and analysis that would help you sort through the virulent spin from both sides on what's known as either Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act, depending on your politics, here is a snapshot of what you found:

Fox News had the Washington Examiner's Byron York "poking around" websites trying to log onto an Obamacare exchange to see how easy or hard it was to sign up for health insurance.

"Poking around" was anchor Bill Hemmer's term.

York went from describing a confusing system beset by "bumps and glitches," to speculating as to how the kinds of problems seen Tuesday could lead to a "... death spiral... where the whole system collapses."

Death spiral?

How did we get to talk of a death spiral and collapse of the whole system only 2 and 1/2 hours in when this report aired? If wishes were horses, I guess.

Or, maybe, if you can't have death panels, a death spiral for the whole system might be the  next best thing.

Anchors Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum followed with tweets from folks who dissed the new law.

MSNBC, meanwhile, had NBC correspondent Mark Potter at a healthcare clinic in Miami doing an upbeat piece based on the theme that it was a new and happy day for low-income, uninsured Floridians.

But the clinic was mostly empty, and the only person he talked to was its president who also said what a new and happy day it was for low-income, uninsured Floridians. (Potter called him the CEO, but the ID under his name said president, so I'm going with that.)

Potter did not have any interviews with real, live, low-income, uninsured Floridians saying what a new and happy day it was for them, but he did cite unsubstantiated reports of "long lines" at healthcare clinics elsewhere in the state -- lines no one else was reporting or showing pictures of Tuesday morning. The alleged lines were at clinics that the president he interviewed was also in charge of.

CNN had White House correspondent Brianna Keilar almost providing some real honest-to-God information when she wasn't binge interrupted by the hotdog anchor desk theatrics and endlessly annoying me-me-me talk of Ashleigh Banfield who was interviewing her.

Is Banfield really the best this channel - that wants to hold itself as something journalistically superior to Fox and MSNBC - can do?

In fairness to York's report of "bumps and glitches" in trying to visit online exchanges, Keilar reported much the same situation and said it extended through at least 12 states.

Keilar further explained how the widespread failures of the situation Tuesday were being seized on by Republicans because they were in a direct contradiction of President Obama saying that going to the exchanges would be as easy as buying an airline ticket online.

That didn't stop Banfield from interjecting with this: "I actually did it the other day, and it was very easy. I did it, because a critic said it was a mess, it was an interminable loop. And it took me about three minutes, and I got a lot of information. But, obviously, I was one person that day. And today, it's a lot."

You tell me if what Banfield said was in any way relevant -- or if it is even clear as to what she did and what she found "the other day." Tuesday was day one. Who cares what she did the "other day" and why she did it?

By the way, during that exchange with Keilar, Banfield brought up a statement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services saying what a "dynamic system" the administration had created with the exchanges. Except Banfield, the anchor on this channel that wants to tell you it is journalistically superior to Fox and MSNBC, referred to HHS as Housing and Human Services.

Do you wonder why we are such a confused, polarized and angry nation when this is what passes for journalism from the three most important sources of TV news during one of the biggest news days of the year?

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