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The Power of the Press; a Good Deed or Terrorism.

By Mike Fak(18,246) Mike Fak

Posted Thursday, April 03, 2008
View All Blog Posts submitted by Mike Fak

Last week I wrote about the plight of the Shank family. Debbie Shank is a 52- year-old former Wal-Mart employee who suffered severe and irreparable brain trauma after being in an automobile accident eight years ago. Although the Shank family ended up winning an insurance settlement that gave them $417,000 in cash, the money won’t last long due to Debbie needing to be cared for in a nursing home the rest of her life.

Wal-Mart executives, invoking a provision in their health care policy called subrogation, decided to sue the Shank family for the $470,000. that was paid out in medical bills to treat Debbie from her accident.

The concept, which was pushed by health insurance companies a decade ago, was to prevent individuals from receiving health insurance benefits and then winning lawsuits that would allow them to “profit" from their misfortune. In effect, monies taken from someone else’s insurance company would be remitted to the claimant’s health insurance company and then the claimants would have to fend for themselves. The subrogation clause was hailed as a way to help keep insurance costs down. That’s worked well so far hasn’t it?

Of course there are instances where someone cuts a finger and gets a ridiculous sum of money and the point can be made that there are times when insurance claimants are in fact profiteering by less then honest means. That is where good and honest judgment should come into place.

I believe the case of a family needing this settlement as well as a great deal more to maintain care for Debbie deserves a little bit of common decency included in the decision process.

In the past few weeks a great deal of damaging press has been given to Wal-Mart in the newspapers, television and talk radio stations across the country. The outrage at Wal-Mart going after the Shanks hit a level of negative feedback to such a degree that the retailing giant decided that they cannot withstand any more of this strain on their image and decided to drop their lawsuit against the family.  

Now several media outlets are hailing this action as a redeeming grace to their own profession. They stand in line telling viewers and readers and listeners how it was they who got this groundswell of furor towards Wal-Mart started. Who started the demand for a change in stance by the retailer isn’t as important of course as the reaction of those who followed the story and vented their objections to Wal-Mart.

The power of the press is only in the information. Changes made are from the power of the consumer to agree with that information and decide to do something such as refuse to shop at a store. That is where the real power lies.

But there is another side to this debate. CNBC’s Glenn Beck who also hosts a syndicated radio program says that Wal-Mart has given in to “terrorists" by dropping the lawsuit. In Beck’s eyes a contract is a contract and what the media did in bringing pressure to bear on Wal-Mart is a terrible misuse of the stage these media sources have been given. Beck seems to have a cut and dried look at life and has lumped the guy who goes from company to company, throwing out his back to get another settlement with the Shank family that will never be the same and will never have a dime to their name unless they win a lottery somewhere.

Curiously, one of the TV systems that is bragging that they helped change the retailer’s minds is CNN which owns the station Beck uses as his bully pulpit.

The response to Beck’s rants is heavily against Beck’s theorizing so far and it will be interesting to see if the power that really counts will drive Beck’s ratings down even further. Or, as time goes on, will more Americans who agree with Beck start tuning in.

Either way, as this plays out, maybe then everyone in the media will learn there is no power of the press. The power has always been ours. We just don’t seem to use it very often. 

This Blog Post has been read 223 times.
Posted to ProBlogs.com on Thursday, April 03, 2008
View other posts by Mike Fak

Comments on this blog post:

Ian Trumbull from Portland Maine: (59 days 10 hours ago.)
There is power of the press. Without the press using prior influence to "tip" the public toward certain issues, and then to "hype" the resulting furor (if any), it would be very hard to attain the kind of groundswell seen in the Wal-Mart case. You're right that after a certain point media power shifts to the individual, but don't think you can say the media weilds little influence in matter such as this.

In summation, if the shank case was not heavily covered by the media, how many would have known about it? Can you honestly say you would have? People can't get upset about something until they know it exists, therein lies the power of the media...

Comment by Danny Davids(13,494) Danny Davids (58 days 21 hours ago.)
And Walmart will simply raise prices on its products and/or raise employee's health care premiums. (Actually, I heard Glenn Beck's take on this and I see some logic in it.)

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