Yesterday, National Public Radio ran a fairly longlong feature on country-and-western performer Merle Haggard, who has recovered from lung cancer and recently released a new set of recorded material.
The story took the standard format of cutting back and forth between a conversation with Haggard and samples of the new material. Here are the topics of the conversational segments between the music (and I may have them slightly out of order). Consider this list an SAT test question—which one does not belong?:
- His bout with lung cancer
- His music
- His view that the new health care law is bad
- His life
- His new album
What is Haggard’s opinion on healthcare legislation that has already passed doing in a feature about his life and music? While it is true that Haggard, an Obama supporter in the last election, wishes the president well in the same segment, it is so out of place as to beg the question, why did the reporter and editor choose to include this material from what was probably an interview with Haggard that lasted more than an hour before editing?
In the NPR story, Haggard says, “I’m not sure we can ask people to pay for it,” which sounds like what some rich folk say when they don’t want to help fellow citizens in need. It also reflects Haggard’s ignorance of what is in the actual law.
I don’t condemn Haggard for making his views known, no matter how uninformed they are. He’s entitled to his opinion, like all of us.
But I’m wondering what NPR’s hidden agenda is? I’ve heard these pop culture stories on NPR for years and they almost always stick to the bio and the music. When they do broach issues of politics it’s because that’s the focus of the entire story. In this case, however, the reference seems gratuitous and out of place. Note that by injecting this anti-healthcare comment in a story on an entertainer, NPR relieves itself of its journalistic responsibility to tell both sides.
This injection of more ignorance on a pressing issue into what was otherwise a soft entertainment feature seems to be part of what I see as an effort by all the mainstream news media to help the Republicans in the mid-term elections. I’m not saying that the media is working together, only that they are slavishly following the lead of the ultra-right media, as usual.