So health care reform news now accepts anonymous single-source allegations & unsigned untraceable memoes as gospel?

“Smoking Memo – or Bad Journalism” – that’s the title of Maggie Mahar’s blog post on the alleged Obama-PhRMA deal. Excerpt:

Yesterday, it seemed that the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim had a scoop. He reported that Huffington has obtained a memo that “confirms” that the White House and the pharmaceutical lobby secretly made a deal–the deal that I wrote about a few days ago in a post titled “What Was Billy Tauzin Thinking?” According to the memo, the White House supposedly pledged to oppose any Congressional efforts to let Medicare negotiate for discounts on drugs, or to import drugs from Canada.

The memo in question turns out to be typed–and unsigned. How does the reporter know that it is authentic? “A knowledgeable health care lobbyist” told him so. According to the lobbyist the memo “was prepared by a person directly involved in the negotiations [and it] lists exactly what the White House gave up, and what it got in return.

Wait a minute. As PhRMA senior vice president Ken Johnson points out later in the story: “Anyone could have written it. Unless it comes from our board of directors, it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. . . .”

And who is the “knowledgeable lobbyist” who gave the memo to Huffington? His name is not disclosed.

What we have then, is a story based on what one unnamed source says–and a typed memo that probably is untraceable.

She goes on to quote me about whether this is acceptable journalism.

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Comments (2)

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Wellescent Health Blog

August 15, 2009 at 11:20 am

I have to agree with your commentary. Asking such a leap of faith of the readers sadly seems quite naive or disingenuous. With significant changes coming as a result of any health care reform, publishing “facts” without adequate supporting evidence seems far more like propaganda and fear mongering. What credence can be placed on any document without some level of proof of its origin?