Norton bio incomplete in Steamboat Today

The following description of Senate candidate Jane Norton in an article on the Steamboat Today website Monday looks innocent enough at first glance, but read it closely:

Norton was Colorado’s lieutenant governor from 2002 to 2006. She was executive director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment from 1999 to 2002. She worked with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan administrations.
 The paragraph covers Norton’s life from 2002-2006, 1999 …• 2002, and 1988 …• 1993. But the period from 1994-1999, which should have been sandwiched in the middle there, was mysteriously absent.

That’s when Norton worked for Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), which describes itself as the “premier membership association for professional administrators and leaders of medical group practices.”  Her responsibilities from 1994-1999 included “monitoring health care reform legislative and regulatory proposals in the 50 states on behalf of MGMA’s 18,000 clinic administrator members and 6,700 medical group members,” according to Norton’s website. 

Norton’s MGMA job became campaign fodder last month when she stated during a radio interview, “I’ve not been a lobbyist.” Her spokesman later told the Colorado Independent that Norton has never been a registered lobbyist.

Democrats point to her job at MGMA as proof that she was a lobbyist for the healthcare industry.  And MGMA told the Colorado Independent that the arm of the company that Norton’s directed conducts MGMA’s  lobbying activities.

Given the recent debate about Norton’s job at MGMA from 1994 …• 1999, it’s weird that this part of her bio wasn’t included in Steamboat Today story, especially when her jobs before and after MGMA were listed.

You hate to be nitpicky when you’re a media critic, especially when you know reporters are doing seventeen things at once these days.

But this small omission in the story, given the larger debate about Norton’s role at MGMA, makes you wonder what happened.

So I called Margaret Hair, the reporter at Steamboat Today who wrote the piece, and asked why she left out the MGMA job.

She said: “I was just trying to highlight her policy experience, trying to provide a quick bio.”  She told me that Norton’s Washington DC experience is more relevant for readers than her job at MGMA.

That’s fair enough, and it makes sense from her perspective, as a reporter. The jobs Norton held  in Washington were more important. Hair’s willingness to discuss the issue helps me believe her, and I do in this case. That’s why journalists should talk to the public. Still, I think Hair should have included the MGMA information in her piece, however briefly, because it rounds out the picture of Norton.

To its credit, Steamboat Today directed its online readers to Norton’s website bio, which at least lists the MGMA job.

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