Journalism is traditionally known as the “fourth estate,” because journalists sat apart from the three estates that made up parliament. They weren’t simply scribes, writing down everything that happened there. They would also report on whether the lawmakers were following through on their promises. That would allow voters to decide whether lawmakers were making sensible policy decisions.
Of course, it also meant that journalists often ended up opposed to the lawmakers, because they would be reporting that the lawmakers were not following through on their promises, or that the programs the lawmakers implemented didn’t work. They would “speak truth to power.”
They don’t seem quite so opposed to policymakers anymore.
Consider the big ObamaCare rollout. On Oct. 1, everyone across the country was supposed to be able to go to healthcare.gov and begin enrolling in a government-approved insurance plan. Oh, and by the way: the law now says everyone must have insurance within three months. So many people no doubt felt the need for speed.
It didn’t happen. “Visitors to the site have endured long wait times, error messages and glitches impeding registration, which is necessary to see available insurance plans and prices,” TIME magazine admitted. The federal government won’t, or can’t, say how many people have actually managed to enroll.
Needless to say, many journalists seem taken aback. As recently as June, The Atlantic offered a breezy account of the excellent work being done to set up the site. “The new Healthcare.gov will fill a yawning gap in the technology infrastructure deployed to support the mammoth law,” Alex Howard wrote, “providing a federal choice engine for the more than 30 different states that did not develop their own health-insurance exchanges.” Instead, the site has become a yawning gap, swallowing the valuable time of countless users. National Review’s Charles Cooke provides a nice wrap up of journalists who were happy to go along with the Administration’s claim that things would be just fine.
It isn’t simply ObamaCare.