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PIA Weighs in On How the Media Covers Insurance in February Rough Notes

Keeping news stories straight and factual when it comes to insurance issues was the subject of an extensive article in the February Rough Notes magazine,...
February 6, 2007

Keeping news stories straight and factual when it comes to insurance issues was the subject of an extensive article in the February Rough Notes magazine, by columnist Emanuel Levy. Levy has been an insurance journalist since 1946 and was editor of the Insurance Advocate from 1958 to 2004. He wrote about the many ways insurance associations work to ensure that information in the press about the industry is accurate. One example he detailed was PIA's work to counter a particularly negative item that appeared in Consumer Reports magazine in 2005. Here's an excerpt from Levy's article:

"An example of how to gain a change in mindset by an organization that may have an anti-insurance bias was offered by Ted Besesparis of PIA National. He cited an article in the January 2005 issue of Consumer Reports magazine titled 'Have hidden payments raised your household insurance bills?' The writer said that consumers 'may be overpaying for insurance purchased through independent insurance brokerages,' based on special commissions paid to them for high-volume sales. The article said it was better to buy from State Farm, where 'bid rigging' did not take place. The story and headline undoubtedly were based on the Spitzer probe of the 'bid rigging' scam, and on what were inaccurately described by the attorney general as "contingent commissions." Obviously, Consumer Reports' editors did not understand the meaning of the Spitzer probe or, if they did, chose to distort it in favor of touting State Farm."

"Besesparis said PIA National wasted no time in telling Consumer Reports that the story in its magazine was 'highly irresponsible' and asking for a retraction. Subsequently, for its January 20 issue, the National Underwriter sought an explanation from Consumer Reports' management but was met with indifference and a comment by the organization that the statement about independent producers 'says what it says.' The protest to Consumer Reports did, however, produce positive results. Besesparis reported that while the magazine did not print PIA's 'set the record straight' letter, the editors did accept the association's offer of assistance on subsequent articles. The PIA spokesman said that the association received a call asking for help with an upcoming article on homeowners insurance."

The Media Touch (Rough Notes 2/07)

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