Biden's universal pre-K would transform America — the press ignores it
Process over substance
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Even though he’s paid to be a straight-ahead news reporter, ABC’s Terry Moran had no problem editorializing about President Joe Biden last week, and what a “devastating” failure he’s been as a leader. Moran’s public put-down was in reference to a new poll that shows only 1 in 5 Americans have heard “a lot” about the Democrats sprawling investment bill, dubbed Build Back Better.
As with other recent surveys, the poll showed that when voters are specifically told what’s in the bill, a clear majority support it. It’s just that most Americans aren’t hearing about the legislation’s sweeping proposals, including the fact that the current framework includes $200 billion in funding to cover free preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds. Build Back Better also contains billions to help families cover the costs of child care. Together, it amounts to the largest expansion of public education in 100 years.
Focusing instead on the bill’s cost and obsessively documenting the vote-counting process, the press has walked away from its job of explaining legislation.
People don’t know what’s in Build Back Better, and for ABC’s Moran that’s a failure of Biden, not the press, even though ABC News has done a poor job explaining the legislation, which has been in the news for most of 2021. Just five ABC reports for this entire year have mentioned “Build Back Better,” “Biden,” and “universal pre-K,” according to a Nexis transcripts search.
Here’s a devastating indictment of the press, from a new ABC poll: “Although a majority (55%) of the public is following news about the negotiations at least somewhat closely, about 7 in 10 (69%) Americans said they know just some or little to nothing about what's in both bills.”
Yes, Americans are paying attention to Build Back Better coverage. And no, they’re not being told what’s in the bill.
Still, journalists play defense. The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman recently made the same bogus claim that Moran did, insisting the media have done a sterling job covering the contents of Build Back Better.
When news broke that family paid leave was being dropped from the negotiated bill last week, Haberman tweeted, “Why hadn’t the press educated the public about what’s in the bill,” a mocking reference to liberal complaints that the press hasn’t done that. When a former New York Times reporter pressed her on the issue (“yes, why didn't they”), she doubled down, insisting, “They did. But I realize that criticizing your colleagues is your thing.” (Note how Haberman thinks “criticizing your colleagues” is out-of-bounds behavior for journalists.)
Was Haberman right? Had the press and the Times educated the public about Build Back Better, and specifically in this case about the family paid leave proposal? The answer is no. According to Nexis, there have been nearly 300 Times articles and columns this year that contained references to both “Build Back Better” and “Biden.” Exactly 9 of those also included reference to “family paid leave.”
As for the Times’ focus on the bill’s transformative preschool proposal, of those nearly 300 pieces, only 7 contained a reference to “universal pre-K.”
That’s why elite journalists like Haberman and Moran are so busy trying to rewrite history — the media’s coverage of the Democrats’ legislation has been a sweeping failure. Focused on process and cost, the news media have simply echoed Republican talking points for months and portrayed the bill as a bloated behemoth, instead of an historic investment.
Over and over, news outlets have reported on polling that shows Americans aren’t informed about Build Back Better. Yet the press pretends that has nothing to do with the fact they’re not adequately explaining what’s in play.
“The survey's findings reflect how the White House believes its economic agenda is widely popular with voters, but it has been difficult to streamline the massive spending package into a clear and concise message,” The Hill recently noted.
ABC on Sunday stressed that, “Democrats are failing to sell the legislation to the public, who are broadly unaware of what is in the spending packages or skeptical they would help people like themselves, or the economy, if signed into law.”
The press is in heated agreement that Biden is to blame for Americans not knowing about the contents of Build Back Better. There’s zero self-reflection involved.
For much of the year, the price tag attached to the bill was $3.5 trillion, and that was a constant point of reference for the press. According to Nexis, here’s how many times news outlets mentioned “Build Back Better” and “$3.5 trillion”: ABC (8), CBS (36), NBC ( 8), and the New York Times (58). How many times they mentioned “Build Back Better,” “$3.5 trillion” and “universal pre-K” or “preschool” in those same reports? ABC (4), CBS (5), NBC (1), and New York Times (5).
Here’s a perfect example of the misguided coverage. Last week, after the White House released the framework for the final Build Back Better bill and Biden went to the Hill to rally Democrats in favor of the legislation, CNN posted a long piece all about the vote-counting maneuvering. (Dems in Disarray!) It wasn’t until the 43rd paragraph that CNN got around to explaining what was in the historic bill. The report was 1,900 words long. Just 27 words were set aside from universal pre-K.
Hyper-focused on the price tag, which is precisely where Republicans want the public attention to be, the press has paid lip service to the contents of the bill. The process by which the bill might pass, and how much the legislation costs, far exceeds the importance of what’s in the bill itself, including universal pre-K, which would change American education forever.
We had never had a Capitol Hill insurrection before this year, so it’s not surprising that law enforcement missed lots of early signals.
From the Post’s ambitious, multi-media investigation, “Red Flags”:
This investigation is based on interviews with more than 230 people and thousands of pages of court documents and internal law enforcement reports, along with hundreds of videos, photographs and audio recordings. Some of those who were interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private discussions or sensitive information.
While the public may have been surprised by what happened on Jan. 6, the makings of the insurrection had been spotted at every level, from one side of the country to the other. The red flags were everywhere.
FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
American Aquarium, “Look at Miss Ohio”
North Carolina’s American Aquarium just released a gorgeous new cover of “Look at Miss Ohio,” originally written and recorded by beloved singer-songwriter Gillian Welch.
The shuffling Americana beat and the non-judgemental tone of BJ Barham’s soothing voice set the stage for a musical portrait of a life contestant facing big decisions.
Oh me oh my oh, look at Miss Ohio
She's a-running around with her rag-top down
She says I want to do right but not right now
Gonna drive to Atlanta and live out this fantasy
Running around with the ragtop down
Yeah, I wanna do right, but not right now
🎙 Click here to listen to the music that’s been featured on PRESS RUN, via a Spotify playlist.
Click here to listen via Apple Music.