Star-Telegram Editor Apologizes for Obamacare Story

Pretty sure Witt could take me in a barfight.

Jim Witt on Twitter

Yesterday we talked about an Obamacare story that the Star-Telegram bungled. Today the executive editor of the paper, Jim Witt, apologized for the story. I give the apology a solid B. He acknowledges that three of the four people in the story who were purportedly having trouble with Obamacare also had ties to the Tea Party and that that information belonged in the story. Witt writes:

Knowing the background of the person quoted can give readers important clues about someone’s motives, but you didn’t learn that from reading our story, because we neglected to investigate the background of the people we quoted. That’s something you learn to do in Journalism 101. I remember my old professor saying “If your mother says she loves you … check it out.”

I’ve got just one problem with the apology. It’s unclear exactly when the paper learned about the problems with its story, but it ran November 24. Not long after, a reporter named Maggie Mahar for began calling the paper and asking questions. It appears that the paper knew about its story’s shortcomings for at least a month. But the apology didn’t come until Mahar published her findings and the Tea Party thing generated national heat. So Witt gets a B because he turned in his assignment so late. Keep in mind that I grade on a curve.


  • Mo Roney

    A B? Really? Spends the first 8 grafs congratulating himself on making corrections before getting around to “We stand behind the details we presented in the story, although I agree there are things we should have done to bring the story up to our standards.”

  • Tim Rogers

    Don’t forget the curve. The one I grade on.

  • I wonder . . .

    “We stand behind the details we presented in our story” was enough for me to give it a C or D. If Mahar has her facts right, the woman with MS didn’t look on the exchange for insurance and could not possibly have been given a $1000/mo rate quote by anyone.

    Many details in the 11/24 story were wrong. That Witt points-out that Mahar is pro-ACA makes me wonder if he is anti. Doesn’t seem like an objective editor to me.

  • Tim Rogers

    Actually, in rereading this morning both Mahar’s report and the original Star-T story, I see that Mahar got something wrong. She wrote:

    “Her insurer just cancelled her policy, and according to Johnson, new insurance would cost her over $1,000 a month. That claim stopped me in my tracks. Under the ACA, no 26-year-old could be charged $1,000 monthly – even if she has MS.”

    That’s not what Johnson said, and it’s not what the Star-T reported. The story said that Johnson claimed joining her HUSBAND’S insurance would triple her FAMILY’S premium. That’s not the same thing as “charging her $1,000 monthly.” We don’t know what her husband pays, and we don’t know what her husband’s plan charges to add a spouse.

    The Star-T story says that Johnson was paying $325 before she was dropped. There’s also a child in the mix here. Let’s say the child is on the husband’s plan. What do those two coverages cost the family? Take that number, add Johnson’s coverage to it, and then the family’s coverage triples. There’s a bunch of math that wasn’t laid out in the Star-T story, and Mahar leaped to the $1,000 figure for Johnson by roughly tripling ONLY HER premium.

    I think Mahar should run an apology, too. And then we should all have a hug.

  • Jack Bblaze

    Giving a B when it is clear an F is fully deserved shows the generous curve one right wing journal would give to another in a thin glue line.
    Forget that that it was a READER who was persistent in order to get the partial truth out.
    Give him a B because, we because while it is not GREAT to lie and mislead people for political purposes (RIP Simmons) it really isn’t that BAD. I mean the right wingers and tea baggers can STILL take advantage of the very same benefits and never be publically thankful for them but why is it so important for journalist to create fear by misleading the public with partisan BS?
    Oh that is right, this is the publication that thinks the Cruz family are rock stars and Jeffress is the D man of the year. Nuff said.

  • Jack Bblaze

    Thankfully your verbiage will never reach most of the people the Affordable Care Act will actually help. Yet the people who read the Star Telegram are being mislead by journalist with agendas. If journalist are concerned about their readers, they would be writing articles both pro and con about working through the problems associate with a NEW insurance program for American’s. How to best maneuver through the system and get the best deal for your personal needs. That would be helpful. Are we to assume that 75 percent of the people who live in Fort Worth are members of the Tea Party?

  • Bill Marvel

    The problem here is probably not the Startlegram’s “agenda.” It is more likely the inexperience of a very busy reporter who is not normally assigned to cover health and insurance issues coupled with an extremely tight deadline. The catastrophic downsizing in journalism has swept city rooms bare of reporters who know what they’re doing. Decades of experience, know-how and wisdom have been lost in a few years. It takes a long time (and wise editors) to grow good reporters.

  • Dubious Brother

    Putting lipstick on the Obamacare pig is being handled by the administration and their press partners. Asking a reporter to understand this law and its “launch” is not possible with the misinformation that the Feds are tossing around.
    There was no such thing as not being able to get coverage because of pre-existing conditions in Texas for over a decade – you just had to pay the premium. The “success” stories will be of people that have $40,000 annual expenses that are now covered for $300 per month. To make it a “success” it takes a dozen other people paying the same premium that have no expenses, ignoring administration expenses of course.

  • Bill Marvel

    Dubious — “Asking a reporter to understand this law and its “launch” is not possible with the misinformation that the Feds are tossing around. ”

    So a reporter assigned full-time to cover healthcare issues would not be able to penetrate Fed “misinformation,” but you have? I just have to ask, how did you manage this? What are your credentials, other than being dubious?

  • Dubious Brother

    I sold health insurance for close to 30 years to individuals and small companies including for myself and my family.

  • pak152

    seen lots of reporting over the years where the “journalists” have bought the federal government’s “misinformation” hook line and sinker.

  • Bill Marvel

    Wrong on all counts, Jett.
    It’s never okay to spread misinformation. But it’s one thing to spread it through deliberate distortion and another because you no longer ave the resources or staff to get good information. Apparently you haven’t been paying attention to what’s been happening to newspapers. Staffs have been cut to the bone, and then the bones have been cut. “The best” are often the first to go because they are the most expensive. Long tenure, long experience, higher salaries. That leaves you with kids just out of college who don’t know their way around and won’t for several years.
    After 45 years in the business I can honestly say I never was hired because I ad the “very same” opinions as the owners. In fact, I almost always had quite different opinions, as did many of my fellow journalists.
    (Jim is probably going to be posting a comment on this shortly; he always does. He disagrees with me. He has an axe to grind, and he may be partly justified. He is the only exception I can think of.)
    While at the DMN I watched journalists battle with management several times. In one case the journalists won. In another they lost, but it was only a partial loss.
    That journalists are beholding to management for their opinions or for the way they “slant” their stories is simply not true. I know that folks suspect otherwise. Folks are mistaken.

  • Bill Marvel

    No doubt, pak152. WMD comes to mind, doesn’t it.
    On the other hand if you’ve been paying attention you can probably think of countless times when diligent reporting uncovered government (and corporate) lies.

  • Dubious Brother

    Like Global Warming/Climate Change – didn’t see any coverage of the global warming scientists that have been stuck in the ice in Antarctica.where they went to prove how much the ice has shrunk.

  • Dubious Brother

    WMD? The ones that Hillary thought were in Iraq, the ones that GB thought were in Iraq or the ones that went from Iraq to Syria that are now being turned over?

    Getting back on topic though, it is interesting watching the diligent reporting uncovering the government (and corporate/union) lies of Obamacare.