Journalists Being Trained by Pro-Obamacare Group on How to Report on Obamacare?

Back in 2010, an agreement between a pro-Obamacare foundation and a society of business journalists had been questioned as a ‘cozy propaganda arrangement’. This arrangement has recently continued through sponsorship funding and training efforts that will provide journalists with “specialized education in health care reporting”.

In the summer of 2010, the Commonwealth Fund, a self-described ‘progressive’ organization, announced a $15,000 grant being awarded to the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW).  It was the third such grant awarded to the SABEW since 2007, but the first to have the express purpose of providing ‘a series of education programs focusing on aspects of the nation’s new health-care reform law.’

The organization has a history of reporting only favorable accounts of the Obamacare legislation, even being pointed to on numerous occassions by the White House. Additionally, the group has featured several revolving door relationships with staff members and fellows for the radical socialist, George Soros.  For example, Michael Vachon has served both at the Commonwealth Fund and as an advisor to Soros at his Open Society Institute.  Alice Huan-Mei Chen has been a fellow while also previously serving as a Soros Physician Advocacy Fellow.

The Commonwealth Fund is a private organization that makes no secret of their support for Obama’s universal health care plan.  The group’s President up until two weeks ago, Karen Davis, trumpeted their role in the reform process:

“The Commonwealth Fund marshaled its resources this year to produce timely and rigorous work that helped lay the groundwork for the historic Affordable Care Act, signed by President Obama in March 2010.”

When the arrangement between the Commonwealth Fund and the SABEW came to light originally, a reporter from a major newspaper voiced his concern in an e-mail to conservative author, Michelle Malkin.

“I may be wrong”, the reporter said.  “But this sounds like a program to teach reporters to write supportive stories about the health care reform law.”

With over 3,200 members, including entire business staffs at major newspapers, the SABEW’s acceptance of funds from this clearly partisan group is questionable.  Rob Reuteman, former President of the SABEW explained that “the Commonwealth Fund has no role in health care presentations other than to provide funding in the form of grants.”  A review of their website shows a more intimate relationship, however.  A relationship which has been extended and fleshed out even today.  

To quote the reporter above, they continue to “teach reporters to write supportive stories” about Obamacare. 

Case in point – The SABEW has recently announced a two-day symposium on “The Business of Health Care”, being held at Reuters Headquarters in New York City.  The event, sponsored by the Commonwealth Fund and featuring their brand new President, David Blumenthal as a speaker, will “offer specialized education in health care reporting” and “boost knowledge of the Affordable Care Act”.

Additionally, the symposium will be kicked off by a former member of the Obama Administration, Sherry Glied, who served under the President at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

And who is their target audience?  A select group of 17 reporters from major newspapers, magazines, and other media organizations.  Reuters, Money Magazine, MarketWatch, the Dallas Morning News, and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel will all be represented at the symposium, to name a few.

Why would a group of journalists need training from a group that steers left on the healthcare issue?  It raises obvious questions about objectivity.

Previous complaints from reporters, along with a Code of Ethics provided by the SABEW themselves, seems to suggest that this working relationship is improper.  The very first rule in that code directs their members to “avoid any practice that might compromise or appear to compromise objectivity or fairness.”  Clearly, some journalists believe that these grants may indeed compromise objectivity.

In speaking with Reuteman on the topic a few years ago, the former SABEW president agreed that this point was valid, and that the activities collaborated on between his organization and the Commonwealth Fund could indeed be construed as a conflict of interest.  He also indicated that the SABEW would no longer use Commonwealth Fund members as panelists in training journalists to report on the Obamacare legislation.

The incoming leadership at the journalist society apparently didn’t get that memo, yet the conflict remains regardless.  

While the Fund’s clearly pro-Obamacare agenda is their own business, journalists being asked to cover the law based on training and education sessions developed by such a group may have their objectivity and journalistic integrity called into question.  At least they should.

Malkin suggested that “perhaps the editors of newspapers who send their reporters to the sessions should see fit to disclose at the beginning of every health care story whether the Commonwealth Fund underwrote their education.”

Rusty can be contacted here.

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