Last week I had lunch with a room full of Texas brokers in Fort Worth. I had a blast.
Former Benefits Selling cover girl Sharon Alt (thanks again) flipped the script on this old school journalist and turned the questions around on me for an enthusiastic, if slightly skeptical, audience (and, yes, she did want to know what newspapers I read).
Over the course of the next hour or so, we covered my background, health reform and nothing less than the state of media today.
There's little doubt that what passes for mainstream media these days is not what it was even just a decade ago. I'm not that old—still flirting with the early stages of my forties—but I remember when the dailies still ruled and something as crazy as the Internet might read like something out of a Ray Bradbury novella. Hell, I remember when we still had two dailies back home in Kansas City (I was partial to the evening Star, my own daily after-school special).
So it's with those memories still carved into my brain that I told the crowd I still didn't believe in the concept of this left wing media conspiracy any more than I believed Hillary's rant years ago against a vast right-wing conspiracy. And while my defense of old school journalism (because at its heart, that's what it was) certainly stirred up the room, Southern hospitality ruled the day and we were still able to disagree over something that sends modern-day talk show guests screaming.
Sure, most of the broadcast and online media outlets bleed bias. It's become standard fare. We've traded Woodward and Bernstein for Perez and Drudge. And it breaks this old ink-stained wretch's heart.
All of that being said, one of the things we take for granted is the simple act of story selection. This issue actually reared its head during my foray into Fort Worth. I got no less than a dozen emails over an AP story we ran over Mitt Romney's health care plan—or lack thereof. Readers hammered me over what they perceived as an assault on the presumptive GOP nominee, when the story offered no value judgment, just a simple report over a press conference.
I was also puzzled because at this point in the campaign, there's no strategic reason for the Romney camp to release a comprehensive, detailed health care plan aside from his intention to repeal it. And because the Supreme Court still hasn't ruled yet—as of this writing—it would be just plain premature. So Romney's broad strokes health announcement simply wasn't that big a deal to me.
One last thing to clarify: One of the brokers asked me if I thought the Court would overturn the law, and I told them I honestly didn't think so. More than any other branch, the Court respects history and precedent and it's with that pedigree I think they'll uphold this historically flawed legislation.
But, as I told that grumbling group, that didn't mean I agreed with it.