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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lying Officials Or Just Bad Journalism?

by capper

Jay wrote a post about the bad economic news that has been hitting the papers and airwaves of late. In his piece, he linked to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that discusses the number of applicants for food stamps and financial aid has jumped by ten percent while the number of economic support workers have been cut on a yearly basis by Scott Walker.

In the comments thread, I mention that I thought there were some errors in the story. Namely, that some of the improvements that were being planned had indeed actually happened.

To double check that I had my facts correct, I contacted some people familiar with the economic support program. These are people that are currently working for or recently left that department.

I asked them about the article. The part of the article which reads:

The Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services knows it has a problem and said it is trying to fix it.

The department is planning a modernization initiative that would allow people to handle their cases over the Internet and the phone, said Corey Hoze, director of the department of human services.

*****
In Milwaukee, the county also plans to go to digital documents. Each year, about 100,000 documents must be processed by the agency, Hoze said. That creates a big backlog for the county. Also, people often submit documents more than once if their cases aren't handled quickly, adding to the backlog. With the new program, documents would be scanned and saved electronically.

My contacts were able to confirm that they have been indeed using this system for the past year to year and a half. So why is the article written in the future tense? Is this the way the Corey Hoze presented the information to the reporter? Did the reporter misunderstand Mr. Hoze? Or is the MSJ trying to make it look better than it really is? Like a "Oh, it's bad now, but Scott Walker will fix it" kind of story?

Furthermore, the story quotes Hoze as saying that the County had to apply for two waivers so that people don't have to come in for an interview. This is an effort to save time from having to actually see the people and find out whether there is any fraud going on. To be fair though, the people I spoke to did complain that the story did not share that the County apparently recovered a large number of fraud cases last year.

I will be first to admit the obvious--I don't like Scott Walker. But my statements above aren't due to any sort of "Walker Derangement Syndrome". There are reasons why I am suspicious of the both Hoze and MSJ.

Hoze ran unsuccessfully for the 4th district U.S. Congress seat. He lost in the primary. Since then he has held a job under TOMMY in the federal DHHS and two positions in the Walker administration. This makes me wonder if he is acting just like another politician, trying to protect his boss, thus protecting his job or if there is something else.

It could be that the reporter simply misunderstood Hoze. Or it could be that the Journal Sentinel was trying to minimize the damage to Walker by minimizing the damage done by Walker. Heck, for all I know, they might have just been trying to play a gotcha game ont he county workers (one of Walker's favorite targets), but didn't put too much effort into it.

No matter what the cause of the false reporting, it is still false reporting. For what the MSJ is charging for their paper, the least they could do is report the news accurately and honestly, and not in the sense that Faux News presents themselves to be fair and balanced.

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