THE MEDIA DISCONNECT….I missed this when it came out, but Tim Rutten of the LA Times had an interesting conversation about media bias with longtime columnist and reporter Russell Baker a few days ago. The problem, Baker suggests, isn’t that reporters are biased in the political sense, it’s that they’re part of a herd of standard issue, middle class, suburbanites:

In Washington, Baker said, that means journalists “who work hard; everybody in Washington works hard. But they lack empathy for the rest of the country. If you’ve never lacked health insurance ? and most reporters and editors never have ? you don’t understand what it means for the 43 million Americans who are doing without it, any more than the Congress does.”

In the New York Review, Baker wrote: “The accelerating collapse of the American health care system may illustrate how journalism’s disconnection from the masses will produce an inert state. If every journalist in the District of Columbia had to have his health insurance canceled as a requirement for practicing journalism in Washington, quite a few might ? get to know what anger is, and discover that something is catastrophically wrong with the health care system.”

Yep. But as healthcare gets more and more expensive, and as companies increasingly cut back, eventually this is going to become an issue too big to ignore. Not tomorrow, and not next year, but soon. Even conservatives will come around eventually if they want to stay in office.

In the meantime, if you want to get a shot of the empathy that Baker says the press corps lacks, may I recommend Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed? It’s sort of the 21st century equivalent of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, and well worth reading whether you agree with Ehrenreich’s politics or not. Plus it’s short and readable. Put it on your Christmas list today!

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