Health care reporters on the take?

In a reminder that members of Congress -- oh, and bloggers, too -- need fact-checkers as much as journalists do, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) felt the need to put out a press release Friday apologizing to three prominent health care reporters. Here's what happened: On July 23, Daily Kos linkurl:reported;http://www.dailykos.

By | July 30, 2007

In a reminder that members of Congress -- oh, and bloggers, too -- need fact-checkers as much as journalists do, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) felt the need to put out a press release Friday apologizing to three prominent health care reporters. Here's what happened: On July 23, Daily Kos linkurl:reported; that ABC's Nancy Snyderman, NBC's Robert Bazell, and PBS' Susan Dentzer were members of the Speakers Network at America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a lobbying group. The blogger, ''nyceve,'' used the item to make a point about the big bad mainstream media -- forever abbreviated MSM. ''No need to wonder any longer why the MSM spews corporate talking points,'' nyceve wrote. Between when the Daily Kos blog was posted and the time that linkurl:another blog; picked up the item on July 26, the three reporters had been removed from the AHIP list. Then, at some point, Stark or his office must have found out about it, and they issued a linkurl:scathing press release; on July 27 about the three reporters. ''All three contracted with the insurance lobby to give speeches to industry groups for large sums of money, a practice known as 'buckraking,''' went the release. ''Though the Washington Post reported in 2002 that NBC prohibited its employees engaging in buckraking, AHIP lists Synderman's fee as between $30,001 and $50,000 per speaking engagement.'' (Some readers may know that Snyderman had been suspended in 2002 from NBC for appearing in a Tylenol commercial while serving as a reporter for the network. She then went to work for Johnson & Johnson, before returning to television news for ABC.) Stark does a good job of highlighting an important issue: ''Journalists should neither take money from business groups with a financial interest in the subjects they cover nor have a lobbying organization arrange lucrative speaking engagements for them before special interest groups.'' He's right, and the way this incident came to my attention was through the linkurl:Association of Health Care Journalists; , where I'm a member of the board of directors. The AHCJ takes the issue of real and potential conflicts of interest among journalists very seriously, and members of the board were looking into this issue when...we were saved from having to look into it much more. That's because several hours after issuing the first release, Stark?s office sent another one, this one headlined ''STARK APOLOGIZES TO JOURNALISTS, CRITICIZES AHIP.'' ''According to these journalists, AHIP and/or the Leading Authorities Speakers Bureau added them to this network without their approval and without their knowledge. I therefore apologize to each for suggesting that they contracted with the insurance lobby,'' Stark said in the release. So it turns out that nothing Stark is claiming happened actually took place. That didn't stop Stark from using the opportunity to call the lobby ''reprehensible,'' and then start his own spin: ''But as is often the case, AHIP's actions speaker louder than my words. That the insurance lobby would add journalists to their speakers network without approval smacks of the kind of dishonesty they regularly employ. Not only does AHIP lie about health care policy, they also besmirch the reputations of journalists.'' There, too, though, he may be a bit off the mark. It turns out that someone at the Leading Authorities Speakers Bureau, which has a partnership with AHIP, had put the reporters on the list of panelists, without letting them know, according to Paul Kleyman, who had spoken to Dentzer and then posted the information on the AHCJ listserv. (Paul runs the Journalists Exchange on Aging and edits linkurl:Age Beat Online; .) It's unclear to me whether AHIP even knew, and Mark French, the president of Leading Authorities Speakers Bureau, issued his own linkurl:apology and letter; to Stark's office today. Here's how Stark concluded his first release: ''I'm not surprised AHIP would sink to this level, but I expected more from America's health care journalists.'' I'll give Stark some credit for quickly acknowledging his error. But substitute ''a politician'' for ''AHIP,'' and ''premier bloggers who rail on the mainstream media for getting things wrong'' for ''health care journalists,'' and I agree with you there, Rep. Stark. Sometime this weekend, the Media Matters blog posted an linkurl:update; to its item, but Daily Kos hasn't yet.


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anonymous poster

Posts: 1

January 26, 2009

Pete Stark constantly shoots from the lip first, and thinks second. On October 24, 2007, the Washington Post reported that Representative Pete Stark apologized to Congress, President Bush and the Bush family for saying that Republicans were sending the nation?s youth to Iraq ?to get their heads blown off for the president?s amusement.?\n\n?I hope that with this apology, I will become as insignificant as I should be,? said the combative Californian after the House voted down a resolution to censure Stark.\n\nThe Post added, ?Each party in the House has its colorful characters whose mouths get them in trouble. But Stark may be in a class by himself,?

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