A Fatter 'Enquirer' and More Media Musings

Abandoning its historic and hardline anti-abortion stance, The Enquirer inadvertently demonstrated the case for evolution last Tuesday.

Feb 12, 2014 at 2:37 pm

The Enquirer inadvertently demonstrated the case for evolution. Abandoning its historic and hardline anti-abortion stance, the paper said this last Tuesday: “Abortion is a medical issue for some and a moral issue for others, but residents should be able to depend on health officials making decisions based on medical care. Forbidding publicly funded hospitals from entering into agreements with abortion clinics denies patients the medical care they may need for purely ideological reasons. As long as (abortions) remain legal, Ohio women deserve access to them that is unfettered by restrictions that aren’t based on science.”

As clear as it is on access to abortion, the editorial sets up a false dichotomy: medical issue versus moral issue. It can be a moral issue for advocates of abortion access. This is the same flawed contrast drawn by the news media in previous elections: white evangelical Republicans were “values” voters but others were value-free. This is sloppy thinking and punditry. 

Even so, the Enquirer editorial was breathtaking in the home of right to life. The whole Jan. 28 editorial — unsigned and speaking for the paper’s senior management — deserves to be read. 

• Speaking of evolution, wouldn’t it have made more news sense to feature TV’s Bill Nye the Science Guy in the Enquirer’s Sunday promo for his debate with biblical Creation Museum cofounder Ken Ham? Julie Zimmerman’s interview with Nye was buried behind Ham’s Page 1 photo and two full A-section pages on Ken Ham and his Creation Museum. Previous sympathetic features told us all we need to know about the museum, plans for an ark (as in Noah, not Covenant) and Ham’s personal story, but Science Guy is the challenger and new to the local debate. 

The Enquirer promises more pages and more news. Good. Anything that adds newsworthy content is welcome and evidence that Enquirer income is reviving. 

Call it a turnaround. During the worst of the recession, the paper maintained profitability in part by firing lots of people, especially more experienced and expensive journalists and staff. It also retained fine journalists who are doing better work than we’ve seen in years and now, from unfamiliar bylines, and the Enquirer is hiring again. Good. 

• Why don’t I criticize the Enquirer more? I’m not paid to re-edit the paper. Folks who fault me and the Enquirer often are neither Enquirer subscribers nor regular readers. 

To some, it’s their point of pride that they don’t read the Enquirer. They’re an echo chamber for conventional wisdom created by like-minded friends and acquaintances. 

No paper is perfect. It’s new every day. Good people make poor judgments or mistakes. And, of course, it’s “corporate media” that some damn. I don’t, and I’m waiting for critics to present a better, stable model for financing and running a daily paper. 

Enquirer’s Mark Wert and data-driven buddies busted myths about winter’s impact on the Ohio River. Folks who claimed to have hiked across the frozen stream will have to fine-tune their tales to fit his numbers; the Ohio rarely freezes. As his data show, there were few opportunities to cross on foot since modern high dams raised the pool, deepened the channel and allowed faster (and freeze-resistant) currents. 

• I’m no fan of the American Red Cross, not least because it won’t answer questions about its embrace then rejection of the Heimlich Maneuver. Now, the Enquirer is promoting Heimlich’s autobiography with an excerpt that focuses on his pique over Red Cross’ renewed recommendation of back slaps instead of his maneuver as first response to choking. Red Cross and Cincinnatian Heimlich deserve each other. 

• I’m still looking for an enterprising reporter to explain why UC students can’t endure cold. Their refusal to protect fingers and ears is no reason to cancel or delay classes. If an enterprising photographer wants a photo op, find UC students waiting for campus shuttles: no hats (ear buds in the way) and no gloves (can’t text wearing them). And what’s with costly shuttles when previous generations walked to campus and between classes? 

• And if reporters want alternatives to upbeat development stories and downbeat street crime stories around UC, how about the economic impact of those “inclement weather” class cancellations and delayed openings? Ask off-campus businesses what happens to their receipts when students stay away at UC’s orders. 

• While Republicans pick through Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis’ resume, less partisan critics are taking apart the duplicitous official GOP response to Obama’s State of the Union message. The centerpiece of attack on the Affordable Care Act by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers was Bette, an otherwise unidentified Washington state resident.  

The Spokane Spokesman-Review tracked her down. Bette Grenier owns a small business with her husband. They hoped Obamacare would save them money. Instead, Grenier told the paper, her insurance company said her $522 catastrophic health plan would not be offered in 2014. An alternative complying with Obamacare would cost $1,052 a month.

The lesson, according to Washington Republican Rodgers: “This law is not working.” 

Greiner’s story perplexed Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. He told the Spokane paper that he couldn’t understand how a state resident “would have no choice but to pay $700 per month more for a policy that meets the Affordable Care Act’s coverage requirements.”

To Kreidler, that sounded like her insurer was trying to steer her to an overpriced option. A compliant plan meeting ACA’s coverage mandates is available from Washington’s insurance exchange for much less. Its deductible is far lower than the $10,000 she was paying under the old plan. She also gets broader coverage, though without four free doctor visits a year provided by her old plan.

The GOP didn’t tell us that Grenier flatly refused to investigate her options. “I wouldn’t go on that Obama website at all,” she told the paper. “We liked our old plan. It worked for us, but they can’t offer it anymore.” Instead, she and her husband “have decided to go without coverage.” 

That’s Republican critical thinking in action. Anyone who embraces her rejection of Obamacare insurance risks worse medical and financial outcomes than if they purchased policies on state or federal exchanges. 

• New York congressman Michael Grimm threatened deadly violence when a local reporter asked a question for which he was not prepared. Grimm told NY1 TV journalist Michael Scotto, “You ever do that to me again and I’ll throw you off this fucking balcony. … I’ll break you in half.” Grimm agreed to comment on the just-ended State of the Union speech but Scotto also asked about legal problems with donations to Grimm’s campaign. London’s Independent quoted Grimm as saying, “I was extremely annoyed because I was doing NY1 a favor by rushing to do their interview first in lieu of several other requests. The reporter knew that I was in a hurry and was only there to comment on the State of the Union, but insisted on taking a disrespectful and cheap shot at the end of the interview, because I did not have time to speak off-topic.”

CONTACT BEN L. KAUFMAN: [email protected]