Week seven of the Grand Rapids Press’ coverage of the Obama administration saw the least amount of stories for a one-week period since inauguration day. There were a total of ten stories focusing on a variety of topics, with health care policy generating the most. Here is a breakdown of the coverage:
- 4 Stories on Health Care Policy
- 2 Stories on the Economy
- 1 Story on Foreign Policy, 1 Story on Energy Policy, 1 Story on the national GOP and 1 Story that reviewed Obama’s campaign promises with his policy decision to date.
Health Care Reform?
On March 6, the Press published a New York Times article entitled “Obama ready to negotiate on health reform.” President Obama was cited warning “lobbyists and special interests not to stand in the way of efforts to rein in costs and guarantee coverage for all Americans.” Most of the story was devoted to a partisan debate about the proposed health care plan, but the Times story does point out, “Mr. Obama provided no new details of how he would extend coverage to the 46 million people who have no health insurance.”
Indeed, there were no details of the plan, nor was there any information on the health care forum that was hosted by the new administration. Journalist John Nichols, writing for the Nation, pointed out that most of those in attendance were CEOs of the major health insurance and pharmaceutical industries. The representation of those in attendance was a reflection of whose interests would be protected as was pointed out in a recent Washington Post article. This should come as no surprise considering that President Obama was overwhelmingly the number one recipient of campaign money from the pharmaceutical industry and the health professionals sector.
The other health stories were a March 2nd story on the difficult task that will face the new Health Care and Human Services nominee, Kathleen Sebelius and two stories on the administration’s plan to end the ban on federal funding for stem cell research. The Press followed a March 7 story announcing the President’s plan on stem cell research with an article on March 8 that solicited local reactions.
The Economy and Energy
In a March 8 story that summarized the President’s weekly radio/video speech, Obama was quoted as saying, “people should be prudent and get back to fundamentals, with an eye on steady savings, reasonable returns and long-term investing.” He also admonished the American people to not “suddenly mistrust all of our financial institutions because the overwhelming majority of them actually have managed things reasonably well.” There was nothing in the Associated Press article or in the President’s speech about the need for corporations or Wall Street to be “prudent.”
On March 2nd, the Grand Rapids Press ran a story on local reactions to the President’s Energy policy proposal, headlined, “Obama energy proposal gets heat.” The article featured three Republican Congressman, all critical of the President’s “cap and trade” plan for reducing carbon emissions. Congressman Hoekstra said this plan would have a negative impact on Michigan manufacturers, Congressman Ehlers didn’t think it would work unless “other nations adopt similar systems” policies, and Congressman Camp felt the cap and trade policy would “tax middle America.”
The Press reporter challenged none of the claims made by the three GOP Congressmen, however they were juxtaposed with two favorable comments from the Executive Director of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and a Lansing-based group, the Delta Institute. Both of these environmental groups support a cap and trade system, even though many global critics, such as Indian activist and author Vandana Shiva, argue that a cap and trade system is woefully inadequate to address the serious global warming problems the world faces.
The last article published in the Grand Rapids Press for week seven of the Obama administration was the first story we have seen that attempted to critique the larger claim that the new administration would be a significant departure from the Bush administration. The article begins by saying:
“For all the sweeping changes that President Obama has delivered, there also has been an ample helping of more-of-the-same. The Bush policy of imprisoning enemy combatants in Afghanistan without trial? The Obama White House is OK with that.
The Bush tax cuts for the rich that candidate Obama promised to wipe out early? President Obama will let them run their course. The Bush team’s claim of a “state secrets” privilege to avoid releasing information? The Obama White House has agreed thrice over, even as it reviews the policy.”
This Associated Press story does a pretty good job of providing readers with an assessment of the new administration’s claims about change to date by looking at the policies already mentioned above, but also addressing continued immunity for telecom companies that allowed the government to spy on the public, the Iraq troop withdrawal plan, and the Obama administration’s continued support of Bush’s “faith-based initiative.” Unfortunately, for readers of the Grand Rapids Press, over half of the original AP story was omitted in the Press version and the story was buried on page A-17.