A K-pop ‘ARMY’ might show us a way forward in the ‘War on Media’ (no, really)

(You can also support this post on Medium)

Journalists, at their core, are supposed to be representatives for their fellow citizens. They’re afforded a Willy Wonka-style ‘golden ticket’ to enter board rooms, factory floors, and the streets of our communities to show and help explain what the heck is going on.

The public expects journalists to use that access and special status to get the public information they need to understand our world better, and know where they might want to advocate, or protest, or investigate more.

This may seem obvious to say, so why say it? The on-going ‘War on Media’ is adding to the already crippling deficit of trust between journalists and some segments of society, and it doesn’t need to be that way.

There have been a number of hot-takes on why dubbing the press an ‘enemy of the people’ could be considered dangerous or wrong. (Check out On The Media for a great discussion)

If you avoid nuance, it’s easier to find a narrative to fit one’s interests — especially if there’s not a lot of trust to begin with. And by discrediting the press, anything the press says about anything — true or not — might be looked at with a side-eye of suspicion.

Reputation is the coin of the realm for a journalist desperate to find and build sources and interview partners. I’ve found people hesitant to talk with me for stories simply because I’m a journalist…that talks to people.

I can’t blame people for caution, especially in the age of Tweets destroying lives. And because there are so many partisan or niche news sites or ‘news’ sites, or types of reporters who want to make a name for themselves with a genuine ‘gotcha’ moment, the public can be unwilling to participate.

The ‘War on Media’ launches barrels of fuel on this fire of distrust.

A journalist needs to work overtime to show good faith or find an ambassador to vouch for their worth, tact, authenticity, and skill.

Enter K-pop

It may seem odd to hear, but my recent post defending journalism educationcaught fire among some fans of the K-pop megagroup BTS.

These ‘ARMYs,’ as they call themselves, kind of adopted me after I stumbled into a Twitter campaign to benefit UNICEF.

My post about journalism education resonated because these fans have been burned by writers who didn’t report to their satisfaction. Many fans pride themselves on a sense of philanthropy, mental health, and community support, which extend beyond the music and the group. If a writer focuses only on the size of the fandom, or the novelty of their interest, they feel stung.

My post happened to fall when they felt jilted by another reporter, and prompted some heartfelt exchanges on the press.

As I’ve said, a journalist is supposed to be able to be a civic-minded, well-informed citizen without retribution. There are many restrictions for a journalist to avoid even the perception of overt bias, but journalists are still allowed to engage in civil society;

…to be citizens, and people.

As a journalist, I relish exchanges like that above, and like the many others I’ve had with K-pop fans (and non-K-pop fans.) I’m not advocating for a position, or making a value judgement, but I’m encouraging civic engagement.

The ARMYs, like much of our world today, are diverse in their demographics, politics, countries of origin, religious and other beliefs. As with any group, they’ve identified instances of their own ‘bad apples’ getting out of hand, but as far as I can tell there is at least the spark of desire to talk things out, and promote awareness of instances of injustice or need. (Take for example a recent Twitter campaign to raise awareness of student protests in Bangladesh.)

The unifying factor in my being able to share my perspective as one journalist in a great big world, in person and online, is that I’ve been given the benefit of the doubt.

I think I’ve proven, at least in a small way, I’m interested in listening and learning for listening and learning’s sake.

When there is no trust, there is no benefit of the doubt given to opposing or complex ideas.

Without trust, it’s easy to dismiss and demonize someone as an opponent…an enemy.

Building Trust Slowly

So what needs to happen to build trust again? Talking person-to-person is a good start.

We need to be willing to dismiss labels and stereotypes for long enough to have a productive discussion about where we are, and where we want to go.

If we want journalism to be better, then support what is good and decry what is not. But not as a monolith — stereotypes are not on what we can base a value judgement.

We must embrace nuance, and admit some conversations are difficult.

It’s easy to demonize people or things that remain just ideas, not flesh-and-blood neighbors, or cherished beliefs. Terms like ‘mainstream media’ or ‘the media’ or ‘the press’ are too simple to accurately represent what we’re facing today.

The mediascape is fragmented, and it’s easy to crawl into a cave that delivers news tailored to your worldview or tendencies.

Don’t take the easy way.

How two countries handle illness prevention

“How two countries handle illness prevention”
Published 18 Jan 2018 | swissinfo.ch
by Tony Ganzer and Geraldine Wong Sak Hoi

Preventing or addressing an early-stage medical condition is a big piece of the health care puzzle. But the practice is sporadic in both the US and Switzerland.

In our previous articles on American and Swiss health care, much of the focus has been on the costs, consequences, and construction of health care delivery systems in the US and Switzerland. That’s to say, we’ve mostly worried about the particulars of a patient getting treatment for conditions.

But health care is not just provided once a condition is diagnosed, or an injury needs treatment.

Preventive medicine is also a big piece of the puzzle. Health care screenings, vaccinations or education campaigns all add to a longer view of health care delivery. It’s not just about visiting a doctor for treatment; it’s also about living with healthy habits and periodically getting checked out to make sure nothing is developing.

Proponents credit preventive medicine with lowering costs and helping improve health outcomes over time. A 2006 studyexternal link concluded that focusing on things like tobacco cessation programs and daily aspirin use would have led to longer lives and $3.7 billion in US health care savings…”

Read the whole article at Swissinfo.ch

What’s being done to bring down high drug costs?

“What’s being done to bring down high drug costs?”
Published 28 Dec 2017 | swissinfo.ch
by Tony Ganzer and Geraldine Wong Sak Hoi

“…Americans, just as well as Swiss, have been asking why such high prices are the norm. Some US observers think plainly, “because there’s nothing stopping them”.

Prices in the US are determined by the market, or by negotiated deals with insurance companies. The government does not impose price controls, even for Medicare patients. The full-service healthcare system of the Veterans Administration (VA) does negotiate prices, and some states have tried to link state healthcare drug costs to those of the VA, but in both California and Ohio voters have said no, largely because the issue is complicated and unclear.

The US is also prescribing drugs more than other countries, for ailments connected to things like obesity, which preventive medicine initiatives aim to head-off. (We’ll cover preventive medicine in our next article)

What’s clear is people in both Switzerland and the US are talking about how expensive drugs are, but what’s to be done…”

Read the whole article at Swissinfo.ch

Caring for those who cannot afford health coverage

“Caring for those who cannot afford health coverage”
Published 30 Nov 2017 | swissinfo.ch
by Tony Ganzer and Geraldine Wong Sak Hoi

“…Health care in the United States has prompted aggressively partisan debates about the role of government in social services, about costs, and even about taxes. Most skirmishes don’t include extended bipartisan recognition of the people who fall through the cracks of the American patchwork system, and the threads by which some of them are barely hanging on.

Even with implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, there are still 28 million non-elderly uninsured people in the country. Although Obamacare expanded health coverage and assistance for millions of people, it doesn’t equate to universal coverage. Cost is a big reason why people remain uninsured, and for some, a lack of legal immigration status prevents getting insurance. Others without insurance faced a problem of making too much money to qualify for subsidies on the insurance exchanges, so they opt to roll the dice without insurance rather than pay full price.

A major group helped by the ACA are those too poor to have insurance through an employer plan or through the open market. Medicaid is the main public program available to help low-income or some disabled individuals (it covers 62 million people). A similar program called the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, helps cover children. Part of the ACA allowed for states to expand Medicaid coverage, opening up Medicaid to people who weren’t initially eligible. But states weren’t forced to expand the program and could structure it to their preferences, which has led to a disparate system…”

Read the full article at swissinfo.ch