Thursday, March 10, 2005



Tonight was Bob Schieffer's first on the
CBS Evening News. I liked the news report, centered on hard and interesting news, compartmentalized by specific reports from reporters, each seemingly in control of their own story.

Very interesting was a report by Trish Regan on
Social Security in Chile. Formerly a business and technology reporter for Bloomberg and Marketwatch, she provided what seemed an evenhanded and knowledgeable report. It is rare in this country to see any report on anything in a foreign country that does not involve war or scandal. A report like this is to be treasured.

The report, however, as titled by the graphic, described the system as a "success," which is not how I understood the story.

First of all, like so many news reports, the segment consisted almost entirely of anecdotal information. That is, the reporter talked to people who liked and did not like the system. From that information there is absolutely no way to make a serious judgement on the success of the system. Way, way too much of TV news about serious issues consists of anecdotal information -- information that is not really precise enough to contribute anything more than a basic concept of some points of view about the topic.

Secondly, in the report itself, the information we get from the anecdotes is that the system worked great for people who are well off and put money into private accounts that grew in average ("average" means some did better, some (possibly much) worse) 10% per year. However, for much of the economy, for self-employed and poorly paid workers, the system did not work well at all.

Since the whole point of Social Security is Security, it seems to me the test of a Social Security system is not how well it does for people who are doing well, but how well it works for the people who are doing the worst.

On that test, based on the report itself, the suggestion from the graphic that the system is a "success" seems dubious.

All in all, I was impressed by the whole show. I've usually been watching ABC Evening News because I like their style. But lately I've been wondering if there was too much of the show devoted to "softer" and less interesting news. I think I'll watch CBS Evening News more often now.

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