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WASHINGTON, D.C.-- The press must add “contextual sophistication” to coverage of federal budget stories, the Comptroller General of the United States told journalists Thursday.
Comptroller General David M. Walker took his “fiscal wakeup tour” to the 2007 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference in Washington, D.C. at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill.
“The numbers are big and they are bad,” he said.
Warning that the functions of government are being squeezed by Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid obligations, Walker said the United States is facing large and growing structural deficits because of demographic trends, including the retirement of Baby Boomers.
Calling for improved financial reporting, Walker urged journalists to not accept government handouts and to seek transparency and clarity in stories.
“Information you get from the government may be accurate, but grossly misleading,” he said. “This is a very tough message that must be conveyed carefully.”
With his remaining six years in office, Walker said health care will become a central focus with a significant portion of federal government spending devoted to the field.
When asked about individuals who ignore health warnings, Walker explained that people can live their lives accordingly.
“We're a free country. You can smoke and eat as much as you want,” he said. “But, there has to be financial accountability if you don’t take care of yourself.”
Concluding his discussion, Walker stated that journalists should re-examine financial scenarios while questioning everything.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For further information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.