22 February 2007

Shoddy Reporting

I found myself extraordinarily disappointed with the ADN's story this morning on Governor Palin's proposal to extend the Senior Care program because it made no mention of Nome Senator Don Olson's proposal to do exactly the same thing.

This is key because I think it was Olson's proposal that drove the Palin administration to introduce their version. If you check out Monday's Senate HESS Committee hearing on Olson's bill, the Department of Health and Social Services says, "Sure we like Donny's bill. We'd just prefer that you use ours as the vehicle instead." But somebody on Senate HESS made it clear they weren't going to wait so the Palin administration announced their proposal yesterday, the same day, incidentally, that the committee moved Olson's bill.

There's a couple of important policy differences between Olson's bill and the governor's. Donny gives more money to seniors ($150/month vs. $120/month) and eliminates (not extends) the sunset provision. I would have liked to see some discussion of those issues in the ADN's coverage.

This is one of the problems of having an Anchorage-based reporter writing about Juneau-centric issues. It's very easy to take a press release, call a few folks, and write a story but it misses out on so much of the important context surrounding the issue. Of course, the governor's press release isn't going to mention Olson's bill - they want all the credit. It's the reporter's job to know what else is going on and incorporate that into the story. Otherwise, the governor ends up dominating and shaping the news cycle in a way that she doesn't deserve.

Adding context and fleshing out a story is, of course, a very difficult part of this job and I have been guilty of not doing my due diligence on more occasions that I care to count. My frustration in this instance is more with the Palin administration's control of the news process than anything else.

No comments: