This week, readers sent us comments on the length of bills, journalistic ethics and other people’s e-mails. In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the e-mail we receive.
Readers can send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters may be edited for length.
I’m U.K., You’re U.K.
Regarding your article debunking [C. Everett] Koop’s recent TV commercial ["Koop's False Claims," Feb. 1]: His lies about the U.K. system only play a supporting role in his farce. Clearly the aim of the commercial is to stoke fears of the same U.K. policies coming to America. As Factcheck has said before, none of the bills supported by congressional leadership and the president would create a U.K.-style government dominated health system. I think it’s important to keep repeating this. And most Americans Koop’s age already trust their health to government Medicare.
How Much Longer?
The length of the health care bill is frequently cited as evidence that Congress is trying to "pull one over" on the American people. I am curious whether ~2,000 pages is in fact unreasonable for a bill. What was the length of No Child Left Behind or the Prescription Drug Coverage passed under President Bush? As far less complex legislation, I would expect that they would be shorter, but the outrage over the 2,000 pages makes it sound as if legislation is typically on the order of 20 pages, so I’m curious if that is the case.
Journalism and Ethics
Has your school ever thought about giving awards for totally unbiased reporting on government and politics? I think such an award is long overdue.
Which makes me want to ask you a related question. Do journalists have to take some ethics oath like doctors? Are they taught ethics in J-school, so their biases are kept in check? Do all J-schools cover this in Journalism 101 up through grad school?
Jefferson City, Mo.
FactCheck.org responds: The Society of Professional Journalists has an ethics code, and there’s also a Journalistic Creed, written by Walter Willams, founder of the world’s first journalism school. (That one is on a plaque in the National Press Building, where FactCheck.org resides.) There’s no rite of passage like the oath of office, or the Hippocratic oath in many medical schools. However, most journalism school programs do offer journalistic ethics courses. We are not aware of an award for complete lack of bias, nor are we sure who’d be qualified to judge it.
More Mailbag Melee
To Mr. Hersey, of Hollis, N.H., who wrote to suggest that you should have corrected my expression of concern for "our democracy" [Mailbag, Jan.26-Feb. 1]. Yes, we have a republic here in the U.S., and if one asks for a definition of that, one correct answer would be that our republic is a representative democracy — a way that it’s been characterized at least since James Madison made that point: We the people don’t govern directly, our reps govern on our behalf (or at least are supposed to!). Why would anyone think that a reference to "our democracy" meant "direct democracy"? We don’t have one of those.
Whatever we call it, if we’re not concerned for it these days, we’re not paying attention.
In some kind of response to Mr. Gary Cooper of Atlanta’s e-mail about why FactCheck dwells on e-mails [Jan.26-Feb. 1] …
The answer is simple. So, so many people believe them! "He’s an Arab!" Remember that? Where do you think that came from?
Simply put, people would believe just about anything they read wherever they read it.