That Sioux Falls paper has finally gotten around to running a version of my July 1 response to Rep. Leslie Heinemann’s myth-making on Medicaid expansion. The District 8 Republican peddled his Koch-y misinformation about Medicaid expansion in the July 1 paper. The editorial board rejected my initial submission on the basis of my substantial use of quotes and sources. “Too many quotes,” read the unsigned letter from the Opinion Page staff, “should be letter of one’s own opinion.” The paper also declined to include hyperlinks in the online version of the letter.
That rejection is a bit maddening, since that Sioux Falls paper’s criteria for rejecting a letter include “Cannot verify facts.” Rep. Heinemann’s letter asserted several unsourced “facts”; the whole point of my letter was not to voice my opinion but to demonstrate with evidence that Heinemann’s claims were objectively false. I quoted and cited several sources so that readers could see that, unlike Rep. Heinemann, I wasn’t just making stuff up to justify my policy conclusions.
Besides, journalists use others’ words in exactly that fashion all the time. They interview, quote, and cite eyewitnesses and experts to lend credibility to their writing and to establish that the information they present is not just their own popping off. Why not let readers report such quotes and sources in their own writing?
I nonetheless pared my original 795-word, 10-source blog post to a 349-word, zero-hyperlink essay that at least mentions four sources that readers can Google:
Heinemann points fretfully to faster-than-expected enrollment in states that have expanded Medicaid. He ignores an 11-state study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation showing that Medicaid expansion is saving states and hospitals money.
The three states Heinemann cites are all better off fiscally. According to a June 2016, Georgetown University Health Policy Institute brief, Washington state has saved over $100 million. According to a March 2016 Montana Budget and Policy Center brief, Montana saved $3 million in state funds. According to a July 2015 Reno Gazette-Journal article, Nevada will spend another $9 million of its general funds to receive $1.0 billion more in federal match [CAH, letter to the editor, that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.07.21; revised from CAH, “Heinemann Fails Fact-Check on Fiscal Impacts of Medicaid Expansion,” Dakota Free Press, 2016.07.01].
That passage worked much better in the original, with the sources’ own words quoted and cited, and with links where any curious reader could verify and read more of the source text. I’m happy, even twenty days later, to have the space in the Sioux Falls reading market, but that ability to instantly share other texts and help readers see for themselves is a primary advantage of blogs over newspapers.