Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) announcement that he will be traveling to Canada for hernia surgery is one that should be taught in journalism classes of how not to cover a story.
You may have heard that Paul is in need of said surgery after being physically attacked at his home in 2017 by a neighbor. The senator ended up in the hospital for weeks.
The neighbor was charged with assault and sentenced to 30 days in prison.Fast forward to 2019: Paul needs hernia surgery, one of the injuries he suffered in the attack. He chooses a hospital in Canada, leading to the big “gotcha!” moment some in media pounced on.
Lousiville’s Courier Journal’s lead paragraph: “Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, one of the fiercest political critics of socialized medicine, will travel to Canada later this month to get hernia surgery.”
Get it? Paul is against socialized medicine. Yet, when he needs treatment himself, he forfeits his principles.
One has to read down to the sixth paragraph before learning that the hospital performing the surgery, Shouldice Hospital, is privately owned.
The story also appeared in USA Today, since the Courier Journal and USA Today fall under the Gannett Co. umbrella.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, one of the fiercest political critics of socialized medicine, will travel to Canada later this month to get hernia surgery. https://t.co/WNxAhH89Za
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) January 14, 2019
So, as long as the paper eventually gets it right deep into the story, who cares, right?
Not quite. We live in a world of news consumers increasingly scrolling headlines and short-story blurbs on social media without reading the whole story. It’s a fast-food journalist world, making it more crucial than ever for publications to tell the real story in its headlines and blurbs/lead paragraphs.
“This is a private, world renowned hospital separate from any system and people come from around the world to pay cash for their services,” Paul spokeswoman Kelsey Cooper told The Hill.
Then there’s the viral world of Twitter that only adds kerosene to the fire by taking the lead graph in the Courier Journal to shape a hypocrisy narrative around Paul.
Per the Democratic Coalition in a tweet to its more than 200,000 followers:
Oh, the irony: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, one of the fiercest political critics of socialized medicine, will travel to Canada later this month to get hernia surgery.
— Democratic Coalition (@TheDemCoalition) January 14, 2019
The tweet was retweeted more than 6,700 times and liked more than 8,800 times. And no need for a screen grab, because the tweet hasn’t been deleted.
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) January 14, 2019
That was retweeted more than 1,200 times and liked nearly 2,000 times.
According to Shouldice Hernia Hospital, U.S. and other international patients “with private insurance coverage may be eligible for reimbursement on submission of paperwork provided to you. We do not bill insurance companies on your behalf.”
“All charges are payable on admission by credit card, bank draft or cash,” the hospital notes.
Those reading or watching at home understand what the game has become: A 2018 Gallup poll showed that 66 percent of those polled said news organizations are being “too dramatic or too sensational in order to attract more readers or viewers,” while just 27 percent disagree with that sentiment.
Per Axios and Survey Monkey, 65 percent say fake news is usually reported because “people have an agenda” in the media, while just 3 percent think fake news “makes headlines by accident.”
Paul gets assaulted at his home. More than a year later, he’s still feeling the impact of his injuries.
He decides to have surgery performed by one of the few private Canadian hospitals that do such a procedure.
One would think some in media would be extra cautious with such a story.