The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud has just published its annual Insurance Fraud Hall of Shame. The dishonorable mentions in this list often make good material for news stories.
This a great way for the Coalition, founded in 1993 by a diverse group that includes insurers, consumer advocates and government agencies, to attract the attention of the general media.
Some of incidents in the “No-Class of 2011” — such as the diamond merchants who staged a fraud by hiring robbers disguised as Hassidic Jews, and the DJ who had a couple of corrupt politicians help her cause flood damage to her home … on a sunny day — are comical. Many are tragic, like the amateur arsonist who died of third-degree burns, and the pastor who had a man shot so he could collect the life insurance.
Indeed, events like these are chronicled and dispatched to media by the Coalition throughout the year.
Some of these stories even find their way onto agent Facebook pages and insurance blogs. People like to read about “the bizarre plots, screwball twists, extreme schemes and worst-laid plans of insurance thieves.” And they make great cautionary tales.
As I was reading about these idiotic capers, it occurred to me that agent bloggers and social media directors might want to get on the Coalition’s mailing list.
So I clicked on their website’s newsroom, where I saw “Receive fraud news: Stay on top of fraud news and trends by receiving our news material.” Great, just what I was looking for.
However, then I read: “For accredited journalists only.” It’s even italicized on the webpage like that.
This touches on some controversial issues that generate a lot of talk in media circles, concerning the Internet age where anybody can seize a public platform to express themselves. Where do you draw the line in giving access to news sources when it comes to so-called “citizen journalists” — including bloggers and Facebook posters like you? And to what extent do “citizen journalists” deserve all the First Amendment freedom of speech defenses that are available to big media journalists?
I don’t think we need to deal with the second issue here. After all, insurance agents or their social media directors are not trying to use this material for investigative reporting. They may simply want access.
And what’s wrong with that? I would argue that insurance agents communicate with the consumer with more credibility than the mainstream press. If the Coalition wants to get its message out, it seems to me that it may be passing up a great opportunity by limiting the access to their material only to accredited journalists.