Coverage of health care reform legal decisions

The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen has a nice summary of how federal court rulings on the health care reform law have been covered by major media outlets. For example:

The Washington Post

  • DC Circuit ruling (upholding the ACA): article on page A4, 758 words
  • 11th Circuit ruling (against the ACA): article on page A1, 1059 words
  • 6th Circuit ruling (upholding the ACA): article on page A5, 1053 words
  • Steeh ruling (upholding the ACA): article on page A2, 607 words
  • Moon ruling (upholding the ACA): article on page B5, 507 words
  • Hudson ruling (against the ACA): article on page A1, 1624 words
  • Vinson ruling (against the ACA): article on page A1, 1176 words
  • Kessler ruling (upholding the ACA): no article, zero words

The Post is the most extreme of the media outlets considered, but all of them give more prominence to rulings against the law than those in its favor. As Benen notes, this is not proof of bias, since it may simply be that rulings in favor of the law are deemed less interesting since they in a sense merely affirm the status quo.

But the disparity in coverage means that casual news consumers may come away with a false picture of the situation. In reality, lower courts have favored the law's constitutionality 3 to 2 and appeals courts 2 to 1, including the latest DC ruling authored by one of the most conservative judges on the appellate bench.

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