‘Fair’ or ‘True’: Pick One

Andrew Cline makes a persuasive argument that “fairness” undermines journalistic objectivity.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I’m not sure journalists are as interested in being fair as they are in being considered “fair,” whatever that is. As a journalist and publisher, sometimes I try to report objectively and tell both sides of the story. Other times, I just report what is said by a speaker or source and figure a followup story or another reporter will give someone else’s point of view.

    I know from experience that it is great fun for an AP or NYT reporter or any other reporter to quote a president, and then insert the other side of the story: He beats his wife. Got’em.

    A huge problem is journalistic ignorance. Take the health care debate for example. The WP reports on Kerry’s plan in today’s paper and quotes Bush supporters on their opinions of the plan.

    But how many reporters will ask these questions, which I’ve posted on my health care policy blog, http://www.businessword.com?

    Kerry proposes federal risk pool for catastrophic cases; private sector solution better idea

    Presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) wants to create a federal catastrophic loss risk pool that would cost taxpayers $257 billion over 10 years and save employers an estimated $288 billion, for a net savings of $31 billion, or $3.1 billion a year. He would create a tax surcharge on the rich to pay for the plan, which has some merit. But Kerry’s scheme is a big-government solution instead of a private sector solution. Questions:

    1. Why don’t re-insurers and the large national health insurers create such risk pools, community rate them and offer them as options to employers and self-insured individuals?
    2. Would state insurance laws need to be changed to allow a private sector solution?
    3. Is the Kerry plan politically possible, given the insurance industry’s clout in Congress?
    4. How would a federal plan be policed to ensure its integrity?
    5. How would private sector catastrophic re-insurers protect themselves against fraud, and would the government allow them to set strict rules and enforce them?
    6. While private sector premiums would reflect risks and costs, how would the cost of a federal program be contained and covered as they increased? How often would and could taxes on the rich be increased to keep a federal program solvent?
    7. Would or could the federal program’s benefits and costs be indexed to inflation in health care costs and adjusted for expenditure increases as more people become eligible for the program and as the workforce ages?
    8. The Clinton plan failed because it was designed to give politicians another way to buy votes by increasing benefits, and the Kerry plan would give him and the political left tremendous vote buying power. Would a Republican Congress or even a GOP minority in the Senate ever give the Democrats such a gift?
    9. Kerry’s scheme would create even greater incentives for Congress to impose price controls on pharmaceutical companies, health care providers and private health insurers as well as to ration care to the less than 0.5% of the sick who account for 15% of costs; will these special interests block efforts to “lower” health care insurance premiums for employers and their workers?
    10. How much more or less could be saved if Congress simply enacted legislation that required all states to allow the sale of unmandated, catastrophic policies and gave individuals the same tax incentives to buy health insurance that are available to employers? Who would support this approach and who would oppose it?