Thursday, January 10, 2013

Life and Death News Judgment

What was the top story for yesterday, January 9?

It seems to me it should have been this story from the New York Times (which also was featured on NPR), describing a National Academy of Science study that shows Americans die younger and sicker, while paying more for the privilege, than people in every other developed country.

Check out these money quotes:

...Americans are actually less healthy across their entire life spans than citizens of 16 other wealthy nations. And the gap is steadily widening.

Americans of all ages up to 75 have shorter lives and more illness and injury. Strikingly, even Americans who are white, insured, college-educated and upper-income are worse off than their counterparts around the world — a finding that no one quite understands.

"People with seemingly everything going for them still live shorter lives and have higher disease rates than people in other countries," Woolf says.

Americans...had the lowest probability over all of surviving to the age of 50.
American men have the lowest life expectancy among men in any developed country; American women come in second-to-last.

This story may not shake me up the way climate change can, but it seems pretty damned important. So where was it placed in my local newspapers of record?

Page 6 in the Star Tribune; page 11 in the Pioneer Press.

Here's what they thought was more important:

Star Tribune front page
The Strib played up the flu outbreak. I agree, that is a big story, meriting front-page coverage (though it didn't make it onto the PiPress front; they relegated it to page 5). Other stories (none of which appear on the PiPress front) cover an ATF pistol turning up in Mexico, the no-steroids-please baseball Hall of Fame vote, and a weird crime story about a guy who dropped a wood sculpture on his wife to kill her. (Sad for her, of course, but is that really anything more than a local story? It's not even local, really — it's from northern Minnesota.)

Pioneer Press front page
The PiPress treats us to a big photo of some beer taps, playing up an inside package about the increase in local brewing, plus a state government/tax hike story, a mention of Joe Biden's gun-control meetings, and its own local crime story about a guy who dismembered his wife. (At least the PiPress's murder story actually took place in Saint Paul.) None of these stories appeared on the Strib's front page.

The only story that both newspapers agreed deserved front page placement was one that describes how the state is finally working on the new online health care exchange required by the Affordable Care Act. Since they both went with that story, I guess it deserves to be there.

But all of the others — are they more important than one that tells you "Americans...had the lowest probability over all of surviving to the age of 50"?

I always thought that if we got to a point where life expectancy was declining, as it does in John Brunner's The Sheep Look Up, one of the most prescient near-future dystopian science fiction novels, it would be big news.

But these days, when something that's almost worse is found to be true, my local newspapers don't even notice.

1 comment:

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Because of the way it affects men, I would have assumed it would get big play. I hope somebody picks up on it!