I was recently in Albuquerque, NM and amazed at the extensive and exceptional coverage that one local TV station gave to the proposed Republican health care bill in the U.S. Senate to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. Where I live in St. Louis, MO, local news is primarily crime, oddities and self-promotion of the station itself and the St. Louis metropolitan area.
There have been election nights when the results get third or fourth billing. This tends to follow a huge vacuum of coverage of who the candidates are, who they try to project themselves as being, and who they might actually be behind the veneer.
Is it any wonder that the people of the country put the Electoral College in a position to select Donald Trump to be president? Between schools favoring standardized tests over active citizenship and most of mainstream television choosing not to address the complexities of contemporary issues (CNN, MSNBC, PBS & BBC are major exceptions), many citizens of voting age have little awareness of public issues.
This is why it was so refreshing to see the Wednesday, June 21st 10:00 PM newscast on KOAT-TV in Albuquerque. The news of the Senate Republicans proposal did not lead the news, because indeed there had been new revelations in what was a far from ordinary crime spree in the area. But once they got to the governmental policy story, they devoted over four straight minutes to it. The reported included the following important information:
- What is in the proposed bill, with a bullet-point visual.
- The reaction to the bill from Donald Trump.
- Response from several Congressional Democrats as well as House Speaker Paul Ryan.
- Prospects for the bill in the Senate.
- The impact that it will have on the KOAT viewing area, specifically the state of New Mexico, including the 900,000 who are on Medicaid.
- An extensive interview with a man with a severe physical disability who would be severely impacted if the bill became law.
- A video response from the Republican governor of the state, Susana Martinez.
- A statement on the floor of the Senate by Senator Thomas Udall (D-NM).
- An interview with their other U.S. Senator, Martin Heinrich (D-NM).
- A statement by one of the two Democratic members of the House or Representatives from New Mexico.
- A refusal to comment by the one Republican member of the House from New Mexico.
This type of coverage is no more expensive to provide than most of what fills the air as local news. The fact is that this issue in Washington, DC has far more impact on local areas than any single crime. In fact, it does more to affect the quality of life of citizens than any number positive acts of volunteerism in the community.
Many in the media do not realize that when they fail to give factual coverage of national news, they are working hand-in-glove with Republicans who prefer for people to be jaundiced about what government can do for them. It is good that government does not have the level of control over local news that it could dictate content. But if those in local news truly want to live in communities that have excellent qualities of life, they must take the lead in informing their audiences of those events of the day that have the most impact on them. Congratulations to KOAT-TV in Albuquerque for doing so.