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Why we did what we did last week

Date: 8/17/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

We've had a fair amount of response three letters, one e-mail to a co-publisher, one anonymous phone call, two in-person visits and several posts on MassLive so far as I write this column about our front cover story and image concerning investigations about East Longmeadow School Superintendent Dr. Edward Costa.

The letters that were designated for publication are all in this week's letters section.

I appreciate a dialogue about our content and the reasons I made the choices I did.

Two of the letter writers felt our use of a crosshair over Costa's photo was in very bad taste. They believe that in this day and time of gun violence any representation that could be construed as promoting violence is simply unacceptable.

I agree that our society is way too violent, but I didn't know that a phrase such as "in the crosshairs" a commonly used one to denote that someone or thing is under scrutiny can no longer be used.

And that a visual representation is out of bounds as well.

If I had used the headline "Costa targeted by investigations" with a matching image that also would have been deemed offensive.

The trouble with trying to be politically correct is you don't know where some people have placed boundaries until you trip over them. My goal was to have an illustration that matched the story, not to push readers' buttons.

There was no intent to even obliquely suggest that any violent act should be directed toward Costa.

This newspaper has had a long history with Costa. We have regularly printed his column and have only edited it for spelling. I have never written an editorial about Costa. I don't believe I've even met him. Make no mistake; I have no fighter in this bout.

This story, though, involved questions on how a man who is entrusted with the administration of a huge chunk of the town's budget has handled some grant money. I think it is our responsibility to run such a story. The story we ran was balanced.

Costa, who is also involved in another investigation, should feel heartened that he has loyal vocal supporters. When the results of the investigation are made public, we will report those as well and on the front page.


You may have not been able to see all of President Obama's remarks from his town meeting in New Hampshire last week. The entire transcript will be up on our Web site, but here is an excerpt:

"Under the reform we're proposing, insurance companies will be prohibited from denying coverage because of a person's medical history. Period. (Applause.) They will not be able to drop your coverage if you get sick. (Applause.) They will not be able to water down your coverage when you need it. (Applause.) Your health insurance should be there for you when it counts not just when you're paying premiums, but when you actually get sick. And it will be when we pass this plan. (Applause.)

"Now, when we pass health insurance reform, insurance companies will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. And we will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because no one in America should go broke because they get sick. (Applause.)

"And finally this is important we will require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies (applause) because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and prostate cancer on the front end. That makes sense, it saves lives; it also saves money and we need to save money in this health care system.

So this is what reform is about. For all the chatter and the yelling and the shouting and the noise, what you need to know is this: If you don't have health insurance, you will finally have quality, affordable options once we pass reform. (Applause.) If you do have health insurance, we will make sure that no insurance company or government bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need. And we will do this without adding to our deficit over the next decade, largely by cutting out the waste and insurance company giveaways in Medicare that aren't making any of our seniors healthier. (Applause.) Right. (Laughter.)"

I have to ask: what's wrong with these proposals?

This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments to or to 280 N. Main St., E. Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.