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MediaWatch: October 1989

Vol. Three No. 10

Update on Past Cooke Awards

BARRETT PROMOTED. The July Award went to Time magazine for its coverage of the RNC memo on House Speaker Tom Foley. An unbylined editorial box called RNC Chairman Lee Atwater a "muck maven" and demanded that President Bush "sack" Atwater in light of the incident. Initially, Barrett misled the RNC by claiming he had nothing to do with the coverage of the memo. Senior Editor Terry Zintl later admitted to MediaWatch that Barrett penned the editorial box. Barrett's career hasn't been hurt by his disingenuous behavior. In September, Barrett was promoted to Deputy Bureau Chief in Washington.

THERE HE GOES AGAIN. NBC reporter Fred Briggs, winner of June's Janet Cooke Award for his promotion of the Canadian national health system, took another shot at it on August 8. Briggs, who told MediaWatch he considered the Canadian system "very civilized," built the report around the "unthinkable" conversion of none other than Chrysler chief Lee Iacocca (never one to resist the government taking business expenses off his hands).

Briggs again recommended the Canadian health care system: "It keeps costs down and covers everyone. Two Harvard doctors say that system could be phased in here." Although Tom Brokaw insured viewers that Briggs would "look at the various options," Briggs explored only "universal health care" plans that "involve federal and state funds in one way or another," such as Ted Kennedy's mandated-benefits scheme. He mentioned no conservative or market-based alternative. To build the case for copying Canada, Briggs ended the report with some wild mathematics: "All sides agree that costs are out of hand, and getting worse. One sixth of the nation can't afford health care now. If its price continues to rise at twice the rate of inflation, only the rich may be able to pay for it by the end of the century."