Journalists who want to be appreciated for the fair-mindedness will bend over backwards to cover both sides of a story, even if one side is delusional. This post from CJR calls it “He said, She said” reporting. For previous posts on this topic, see here and here.
Unfortunately, the board is best known as the current vehicle for the false claim that Obama’s health care plan would create “death panels,” which spread widely after Sarah Palin’s August 2009 Facebook post coining the term. As a result, journalists face a conundrum. The pervasiveness of the myth is part of the reason the partisan dispute over IPAB appointments is now newsworthy—but as I warned back in January, credulous coverage has the potential to reinforce the misperception.
It’s important for journalists to adopt best practices in reporting on myths like “death panels” rather than backsliding into the “he said,” “she said” style-reporting that was frequently observed during the initial “death panels” controversy. Though IPAB’s cost-cutting process has been delayed for at least a year, the demagoguery surrounding health care cost reduction strategies isn’t likely to go away any time soon.