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Journalism for Elites

My friend Tom Stites sends along a pointer to the New York Times story, “Insurer Says Economy Has Dented Its Prospects,” which begins:

It is never a good thing if many of your customers can no longer afford what you are selling. The UnitedHealth Group, which announced disappointing first-quarter earnings on Tuesday, said the weakening economy was causing fewer businesses and employees to sign up for its health insurance. UnitedHealth, whose stock fell sharply on the report, also cut its overall profit outlook for 2008.

The Times “outdoes itself in covering the news from an elite perspective with this piece,” Tom observes.

“Reporting and writing the piece from the perspective of people in the third to seventh deciles of the income distribution would all but certainly yield a lede something like: ‘The weakening economy is setting off a surge in the number of Americans without health coverage.’

“People want to know this, not just investors. Journalism needs to inform them, but is failing.”

1 Comment on “Journalism for Elites”

  1. #1 Jon Garfunkel
    on Apr 23rd, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    With all due respect to Tom, the Times is not the Daily Worker (much as the right-wing would like to claim it is). If every headline were “The Rich Stay Healthy, and the Sick Stay Poor” (apologies to Bono, if he’s reading), the paper would get pretty dull.

    United Healthcare has $19B in revenues– slightly larger than Google. When they release their earnings, it makes sense for the business press to cover it.

    I did read the story, as well as the one from October. Then, CEO Stephen Helmsley “said the company had held firm on pricing in the commercial benefits market ‘even at the cost of membership growth.'”

    It’s not clear whether that’s now seen as a mistake, the Times quoted Helmsley today: “We have not executed well and have not executed well over the last two years.”

    (perhaps he was misquoted?) Also:

    Mr. Boorady said UnitedHealth had not been as receptive as it should be to outside ideas, saying executives were “tone deaf to their customers and their shareholders.”

    What outside ideas? Bearing in mind that online readers are less the army of the proletariat than we are idea mavens…