First Read connects coverage to confusion

FIRST READ CONNECTS COVERAGE TO CONFUSION…. The latest report from the Kaiser Family Foundation seems to have zeroed in a point that’s too often left out of the discourse: the health care debate has all kinds of heat, but very little light.

In this case of the KFF data, we see that Americans not only don’t know what’s in the Affordable Care Act, nearly half the country doesn’t even know if the law still exists. As we talked about yesterday, what kind of national debate can we have on health care policy if a combined 48% of the country thinks the law has already been repealed or isn’t sure? This kind of detail is the bare minimum of public awareness. If nearly half the country knows the law is still on the books, there’s no hope for a credible discussion of more complex issues like the individual mandate and medical loss ratio.

With this in mind, it was heartening to see this take from MSNBC’s First Read:

As we said when yet another poll showed a sizable portion of the American public thinking that — incorrectly — President Obama is a Muslim, everyone deserves blame here. The politicians. The citizenry. And especially the news media. We aren’t doing our jobs when the populace is this misinformed. As a collective, look at how the court decisions striking down the health law get covered vs. the decisions to uphold it. And then look at the conservative media outlets and their coverage of this issue. [emphasis added]

I’ve been trying to push this observation about media coverage of the court rulings, and it’s encouraging to see First Read pick up on this.

Indeed, as Greg Sargent noted, First Read’s take seems to offer “a subtle hint that conservative media is misinforming people, and that it’s up to the rest of us to do all we can to set the record straight.” Commenting on the disparity in coverage when it comes to the court rulings, Greg added:

In some ways, of course, it’s understandable that decisions striking down the law are routinely deemed more newsworthy than those upholding it. The former represents a potential change, while the latter doesn’t. Change=news.

But the simple fact is that both decisions have equivalent real world consequences, or an equivalent lack of them, since the law’s fate is likely to be decided one way or the other by the Supreme Court. And as I noted here the other day, the disparity in coverage is a shame, if only because it seems to be leaving the public deeply misinformed about the law’s legal status.

Kudos to First Read for noticing.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.