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Meet the Truth
Transcript of Meet the Truth
March 14-April 5
Health Care Debate Agenda-setting theory
Press tells us what to think about but not what to think
What we learn about an issue is in direct proportion to press coverage of that issue (Kuypers) Agenda-extension theory
The press not only tells us what to think about, but it also tells us how to think about it
Evaluative component has been called priming/framing Priming
There are contextual cues embedded within a news story that can be used to by the public to evaluate the subject matter at hand.
The media provides evaluative cues to the public so that they can evaluate government success
It is not the frequency of a word, metaphor, or concept that accounts for its strength, but rather how consistently "framed" it is across time Meet the Truth: A Critical Discourse Analysis on Meet the Press's Coverage of the Health Care Reform Bill Following Fairclough's (1992) descriptions of CDA,
I look at:
the linguistic features and organization of truth claims
vocabulary, grammar, cohesion, and text structure
the truth claims as something consumed by society
how these truth claims feed into the ideological effects and hegemonic practices
Focus on Discourse Representation
How quoted utterances, are selected, changed, and contextualized (Baynham & Slembrouck 1999)
“When a text explicitly marks the presence of another text or texts through citation,” it … “may involve a direct quote, a grammatically embedded quote, or a paraphrase,”
In the case of MTP, the presence of another text is shown through references to factual information MTP: March 21, 2010 MR. TAVIS SMILEY: But it's also true that the insurance people are the real winners here. There is so much more that this bill should have been, to your question to Chuck a moment ago. Americans expected more. The insurance companies really won here. When I was last around this table, that week the stock of the insurance companies hit a 52-year high. They are happy about this vote today given what it could have been...
Uses "fact" about stock to insinuate that the bill is good for the insurance business
By letting us know that insurance industry "won" and is "happy," viewers are put in a confusing position: does this benefit low-income public (frame used by Democrats) or big business? So, what are the facts? Tavis Smiley was last on MTP on December 20, 2009.
Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean said he didn’t like the Senate health care bill because it was like a gift to the insurance agency.
Dean: " It is not a coincidence, David Gregory, that insurance company stocks, health insurance company stocks, hit a 52-year high on Friday. So they must know something that the rest of us don’t."
Later in the program, Joe Scarborough, co-host of MSNBC’s "Morning Joe,"repeated Dean's "fact": "And as Howard Dean said, and this is a devastating fact, insurance companies’ stocks reached a 52-year high on Friday after this so-called reform bill got its 60th vote."
Tavis repeated the "fact" he heard twice on that Meet the Press episode. But Dean and Scarborough misspoke.
The New York Stock Exchange figures show that a number of the leading health insurance providers’ shares were traded at prices near their 52-week high last Friday — not a 52-year high. What about Dunn's claims? In months leading to votes, the industry and interest groups have spent $380 million influencing healthcare legislation through lobbying, advertising and in direct political contributions to members of Congress
Dunn insinuated that the health care industry was fighting the bill AND would lose the fight if it passed
So... who is right? Pro-industry: The bill builds on our current system of private insurance, and in fact, drums up more business for private companies by mandating that individuals buy coverage and giving many subsidies to do so.
Anti-industry: There would be increased government regulation of the insurance industry, however, to require companies to cover preexisting conditions, for example
In a C-SPAN interview, Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans suggested that -- contrary to GOP claims -- she believes the individual mandate in healthcare reform is constitutional
Reaction to bill passing March 22nd: "The access expansions are a significant step forward, but this legislation will exacerbate the healthcare costs crisis facing many working families and small businesses."
(1) How do the talking heads alter/exaggerate/decontextualize facts to aid their argument?
(2) What can be done to hold the talking heads accountable for their misleading truth claims? MS. DUNN: Well, I do have to respond to that, David, because if it's so good for the insurance companies, Tavis, why have they spent $200 million trying to defeat this? Why has there been such a pitched battle from that particular interest group and from those groups? Both are only half-right.
Davis is right that the mandate to buy insurance benefits the industry, but the government looking over its back does not make the industry "happy."
Dunn is right that the industry has been spending millions of dollars to defeat the bill. But they have been successful - there is no public option, for example. Even with the bill being passed, they have "won" the fight. Reliance on Polling
MTP uses many "polls" to prove points
Example: David Gregory asks panel: "The chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, has said this will be a middle-class tax--excuse me, a middle-class healthcare bill. And yet if you look at our polling, middle-income Americans who are asked about this healthcare bill are roundly opposed to it. Fifty-eight percent say this is not a good idea. How does this deliver, then, for the middle class?" March 28, 2010
Panelists often misinterpret the polls
Host often puts too much weight on polls But "polling is not democracy, and it is not truth. Most important, it is not even public opinion. Public opinion is a great billowing cloud, impossible to capture iwth a view quick measurements. The doubt inherent in it distinguishes opinion for belief and conviction. Confronted with inconsistent polls around presidential elections, pollers concede they are only taking snapshots -- pictures that quickly expire. But while polls capture merely an instant in time, the decisions made by people who rely on them can last for decades." - Crossen in TAINTED TRUTH: The Manipulation of Fact in America Correction or Change the Subject?
Gregory more likely changes the subject than attempts to make any correction when faced with truth claims
Gregory says he is trying to keep commentators "on point"
Failure of the host to factcheck "Reality is created or constructed through communication, not expressed by it."
-Dan Nimmo Overarching Issues in Truth Claims Using simple frames for complex issues
Constant problem in health care debate
Calling CLASS act a "ponzi scheme"
Debt reduction v. Debt addition Calls for MTP to Fact Check
NYU Professor Jay Rosen tweets "Sadly, you're a one-way medium, @betsyMTP, but here's an idea for ya: Fact check what your guests say on Sunday and run it online Wednesday." in December 2009
January 2010: David Gregory, said in a statement to POLITICO that it was a “good idea” and his staff is “going to talk about it.”
April 8, 2010: ABC News announces that its Sunday show, This Week, hosted by Jake Tapper, will fact check what its guests say by collaborating with Politifact.com.
Gregory says "People can fact-check Meet the Press every week on their own terms." (April 14 to Washington Post)
“Good Washington journalists ought to be able to do some fact-checking when they question these officials,” Bob Schieffer, moderator of Face the Nation said. “If it doesn’t sound right to me, I ask him a follow-up question about it.” The problem with guests isn’t lying, Schieffer said, but “getting them off the talking points.” Why won't he fact check?
hold politicians accountable for discourse
Rosen claims Gregory "thinks Tapper's policy may give Meet the Press a competitive edge in booking guests who won't want to be checked so vigorously"
Sources used to check facts:
Politifact.com, a project of The St. Petersburg Times, PolitiFact won a Pulitzer Prize last year for national reporting
Factcheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania
CBO's Preliminary Estimate of the Direct Spending and Revenue Effects of H.R. 4872, the Reconciliation Act of 2010 Conclusion
Talking heads use many tricks in discourse to make their truth claim seem reliable: polling data, incorrect facts, oversimplifying statement, etc
Essentially, they often change the context of quotes and figures to suit their frames
One solution to this problem is Fact Checking by the program
MTP refuses to do it THEORETICAL BACKGROUND