An insider-turned-critic’s view of health insurance, COVID-19, and the fate of the Affordable Care Act

A don’t miss event is coming up on Thursday evening from the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists and you can join us via this Zoom link.

Wendell Potter, a former journalist turned health industry spokesperson turned industry whistleblower, will share some of his insights in an East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists program on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Potter has strong ties to the region. He was born in the mountains of North Carolina, but grew up in upper East Tennessee and is a graduate of the University of Tennessee.

After a very successful career covering news as a reporter, he became a health insurance company spokesman for more than two decades. In a “crisis in conscience,” he left his executive position with Cigna Insurance in 2008 and became a “reformed insurance propagandist.”

Knoxville-based Remote Area Medical and a clinic it held deep in rural Appalachia in the Southwestern Virginia county of Wise played a key role in his transformation.

He has evolved into a leading critic of the health care and insurance system in the United States and an advocate of “Medicare for All,” writing books and opinion pieces, being quoted by journalists, and testifying before Congress.

He recently launched what he calls “a first-of-its-kind project to battle greedy corporations, lobbyists & politicians who fight to preserve our deadly health care system.”

It’s called the Center for Health & Democracy.

His session with the East Tennessee and University of Tennessee student SPJ chapters comes just weeks before the Supreme Court is to hear oral arguments in a challenge to overturn the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare.”

It also comes as the Senate moves to confirm the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, a conservative jurist who has written critically of the court’s previous decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act.

“There could be great harm to many millions of Americans if the law is declared entirely unconstitutional,” Potter was recently quoted as saying in an article by The American Independent.

He made news mid-summer during the pandemic when he tweeted: “Amid America’s #COVID19 disaster, I must come clean about a lie I spread as a health insurance exec: We spent big $$ to push the idea that Canada’s single-payer system was awful & the U.S. system much better. It was a lie & the nations’ COVID responses prove it.”

The pandemic, the nomination to the Supreme Court of Barrett, and the Affordable Care Act challenge before the high court have focused attention even more intensely on the debate over health care in America.

Join us Thursday to get a unique insider’s view of the debate.

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Google Tools training for journalists coming to Knoxville

SPJ Training Program in association with Google News Initiative

Don’t miss an upcoming free training opportunity in Knoxville for journalists.

The East Tennessee chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is bringing SPJ’s Google Tools training to town on Saturday, June 2.

The four-hour session begins at 10 a.m. at the Scripps Lab, 1345 Circle Park Drive, on the University of Tennessee campus.

While free, registration is required. Sign up here:

Participants need to bring a laptop and phone to the session.

SPJ Trainer Mike Reilley, founder of SPJ’s Journalists Toolbox.

The instructor will be Mike Reilley, founder of SPJ’s Journalists Toolbox, a treasure-trove of journalism resources.

Reilley (@journtoolbox) is a visiting professor in data journalism and digital journalism at the University of Illinois-Chicago and is a consultant to national media organizations on digital innovation.

This innovative training is made possible by the Google News Initiative and the Society of Professional Journalists.

The Google News Initiative partnered with SPJ in 2015 to teach Google digital tools for news and storytelling at conferences, workshops and newsrooms across the country. Google and SPJ are committed to training as many journalists as possible.

This intensive course will help make you be a better digital journalist, teaching you how to take advantage of Internet sources for researching court cases, public data and news archives, among other sources. It is designed to improve the efficiency and efficacy of your in-depth research.

Here is an outline for the course.

10 a.m. to 10:55 a.m.: Google basics, Google Trends, Google Reverse Image Search and verification tools, Google Scholar. Fun with Google and what else is coming in AI with Google Lens.

11 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.: Deep Dive Google MyMaps. Data scraping with Google Sheets, scraping .PDFs with Tabula. Google Public Data Explorer

12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m.: Lunch and learn: Mobile reporting tools, including Google Cardboard Camera and Google Streetview app.

1 p.m. to 2 p.m.: Google Earth Pro, Earth Engine Timelapse tool, Street View.

Have questions? Email me at