A Slight Detour and a Chop from COBRA Kai

My good friend Joe Larkins usually comments on media issues in Memphis. He’s traveling this week, but I felt like this issue deserved immediate comment. I was checking Twitter Tuesday and was surprised to see the post from Mediaverse: Memphis that Mary Powers is leaving the Commercial Appeal for a position at St. Jude.

Mary, if you don’t know, has been the CA’s health and medical reporter for years. To employ a somewhat sappy cliche, she covered that beat like a blanket, breaking stories, making sense of complicated procedures and staying on top of unfolding stories better than anyone in the market.

When I took over the health beat for WREG in the early 90s, the CA had two reporters on that beat. One left for a job out west, but Powers managed well enough to make you think that there were still two journalists doing the job. I have enough ego to think I’m the best TV health reporter this market has had — but I’ve got enough brains to know that I wasn’t in her class.

I won’t pretend to know what prompted her move, although the way the newspaper industry has been contracting is a probable culprit. If so, I have something else to admire in Mary — her foresight in making a move before events conspire to make that move for her.

I think Memphis will be worse off without having her insightful reporting. While the paper will probably be able to find freelancers to cover some health news, you can’t get the same depth of coverage by having folks parachute in for individual stories. Even if the CA chose to assign a staffer to the beat, it would take years for them to have the same level of understanding that Mary has.

Still, while writing for science journals sounds a tad on the dry side, St. Jude does the work of angels, so it’s good they’ll have someone of her talent to help them tell the stories of their scientific advances.

Congratulations, Mary.

News & Notes:

Rejected!

In the old days, job applications were always on paper. Rejections, if companies bothered to give them, came the same way. You always feared a thin letter, knowing that the only thing inside was a rejection letter. With the Internet, the process is a little different; the rejections are still form letters, you just get them much more quickly, via e-mail.

I got a couple today, and one came across as particularly harsh. Needless to say, I’ll think twice before I stay in their hotels again (that’ll show ’em!).

The COBRA strikes!

Today, I learned the importance of reading all my job separation material. In the insurance section, I saw something about not having to make an election for COBRA coverage until June. I did not see the part noting that my coverage would lapse immediately if I made no selection at all. Well, I found that out Tuesday when I stopped by the pharmacy to pick up a prescription.

After getting home in a panic and going through my paperwork, I got online to get the coverage (at my age and level of decrepitude, it’s not something I can ignore). Keeping the same coverage as I had will cost nearly $700 for two months! Yikes! I’ve paid less for apartments. I may be eligible for a discount because of the economic stimulus plan, but it’ll be a while before I find out.

Here’s the kicker. I call the customer service line to make sure I’ll be covered when I go to the doctor on Thursday. I’m confused because the website says my payment for April & May isn’t due until June. Well, the nice young man tells that while the grace period does run through June, COBRA is a prepaid service, so coverage doesn’t start until they have cash in hand.

So, I could pay in June for coverage in April and May, but I couldn’t use that coverage if I waited that long to pay. And as it is, I’m paying in May for April coverage that I didn’t use because I didn’t know I had to pay. Are your heads spinning now?  ‘Cause mine is.

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About Doug Johnson

I spent 25 years in the news business, working in print, radio and television. After a steady rise to the middle, I made the leap to the private sector, which chewed and then tried spitting me out after 2 years. I zigged (instead of zagging) into a position in television production.
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