Mt. Vernon Register-News

Features

April 16, 2013

An abortion provider Is on trial: Where's the media coverage?

The trial of Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell would seem to have all the elements of a spectacular news story: shocking allegations, horrifying visuals, sympathetic victims.

Yet until late last week, much of the national media was silent as testimony about Gosnell's alleged "house of horrors" abortion clinic rolled out. Much of the media attention outside Philadelphia, in fact, centered on how little media attention the story was receiving outside Philadelphia.

Could it be, as conservative bloggers have charged since shortly after the trial began March 18, that the media had taken a pass because Gosnell - who stands accused of killing seven newborn infants and one mother - is an abortion doctor whose alleged crimes run counter to the mainstream media's supposed support for abortion rights?

That's the way the Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog group based in Alexandria, Va., has framed it. In multiple commentaries published since last month, the group has hammered the lack of coverage, citing it as evidence of liberal media bias. "The media elite are passionate about abortion and passionate about defending it," says Tim Graham, the MRC's director of media analysis, in an interview. "This is a story that threatens the abortion rights agenda. . . . It's bias by omission." Neither Graham nor any of the other critics have offered evidence for their suspicions.

Media representatives offer several rationales for their inaction: that other stories were commanding their attention and resources, that the lack of cameras in the courtroom diminished TV interest in the story, that the Gosnell trial was simply overlooked.

Moreover, some commentators have pointed out, greater media attention to the trial might help, rather than hurt, abortion rights advocates. They say the graphic testimony about illegal late-term abortions, unlicensed staff and shockingly unsanitary procedures and conditions at Gosnell's Women's Medical Society clinic strengthens the case for keeping abortion safe, legal and affordable, particularly for the poor women who sought Gosnell's services.

            

The charge of liberal media bias is perhaps undercut by the fact that a number of conservative media outlets - and conservative leaders - overlooked the story, too, until a flood of tweets and commentaries about it began late last week.

The Weekly Standard and the National Review, two leading conservative magazines, for example, hadn't published anything on the trial, according to a search of the Nexis database. The New York Post's conservative editorial board has written one commentary - an editorial lamenting the lack of coverage, which, although it doesn't mention it, includes its own paper. The Washington Times has published five staff-written articles and guest commentaries on the matter, all focusing on the absence of press coverage.

Fox News has been the only consistent national TV source on the story, having run 11 news reports or commentaries on it over the past month. Among national print outlets, the Associated Press has covered the trial extensively. The story has been prominently featured in the Huffington Post and discussed on its Huffington Post Live webcast. The Huffington Post is generally considered a liberal news organization.

 It's not as if outlets weren't aware of Gosnell's case, since his arrest in 2011 was widely covered. But the trial received no mentions on NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC and PBS programming until last week. NPR's "All Things Considered" reported one piece on it at the end of last month, as did The New York Times on March 19. Until Friday, CNN had aired only 76 words on the trial when host Jake Tapper mentioned it March 28. The Washington Post hadn't reported a word on the trial until Friday.

Despite this, several network representatives defended their absence on the story.

"The story is on our radar," said Liz Fischer, a spokeswoman for NBC News. "We understand the importance of the issue and we'll continue to cover the broader questions as news warrants." She declined to comment further.

"CBS has been working the story," said a spokeswoman, Sonya McNair. She declined to explain why CBS hadn't reported on it until Sunday's "CBS Evening News."

"We feel our coverage, both online and on television, has been thorough and appropriate," said Allison Gollust, a CNN spokeswoman.

An ABC News representative, Julie Townsend, declined comment.

Lauren Skowronski, an MSNBC spokeswoman, said her network was paying attention to the story, but added, "We don't cover criminal trials to the extent of others in cable news."

Indeed, the big trial for cable news last week wasn't Gosnell's but that of Jodi Arias, the young Arizona woman accused of killing her boyfriend. The Arias story has been a tabloid favorite, with numerous sexual and romantic angles.

A spokeswoman for HLN, the cable network that has covered Arias extensively, said it had no current plans to cover Gosnell. "We've been carrying the Arias trial live and wall-to-wall since the trial started shortly after the new year, and will continue to do so until it concludes," said the spokeswoman, Alison Rudnick. "And, as you know, viewers have been gripped, and we want to continue to respond [and] deliver to viewer interest."

One key difference between the Arias and Gosnell trials is that courtroom cameras are permitted in the former but not in the latter. That makes it "a lot easier [for TV] to cover [Arias] extensively," said CNN's Gollust.

Text Only
Features
  • The Simpsons still going strong

    The groundbreaking animation first hit the air Dec. 17, 1989, but the family first appeared on television in "The Tracey Ullman Show" short "Good Night" on April 19, 1987.

    August 21, 2014

  • Pets.jpg Why do people look like their pets?

    As much as we might quibble over the virtues and vices of Canis domesticus, however, and over whether human nature is any better or worse than dog nature, even dog fanciers don't usually want to look like a dog.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Freshman.jpg 8 crucial tips for college freshmen

    With school starting back up around the country, no one has a bigger deer-in-the-headlights look than college freshmen.

    August 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Can 6 seconds launch a career? A generation of Vine stars sure hopes so.

    A year ago, Shawn Mendes filmed himself singing a tentative acoustic cover of the Justin Bieber song "As Long as You Love Me" and put the results on Vine. He wasn't expecting much response. "I didn't really want anything to happen; I just kind of wanted to see what people would think," says Mendes, 16. "I posted that first Vine and woke up the next morning with 10,000 followers. That was pretty cool."

    August 14, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 3.09.32 PM.png VIDEO: Stars react to Robin Williams' death

    Prior to the premiere of “The Expendables 3” in Los Angeles, several movie stars shared their thoughts on the death of actor and comedian Robin Williams.

    August 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • job-fair.jpg Job market tilting toward workers

    The balance of power in the job market is shifting slowly toward employees from employers.

    August 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • ruralpoverty.jpg How rural poverty is changing: Your fate is increasingly tied to your town

    The town of Las Animas takes about five minutes to drive through when the one stoplight is blinking yellow, as usual. It's easy to miss but hard to escape. Just ask Frank Martinez.

    August 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dartmouth.jpg Break the college cartel

    Ask liberals why college is getting so expensive, and they'll probably tell you it's a case of government neglect. Ask conservatives the same question, and they'll tell you the opposite.

    August 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 3.43.11 PM.png Your brain helps you judge a face before you even see it

    In a new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, researchers report that the amygdala — a part of the brain associated with decision making, memory and emotion — plays a part in telling us who to trust almost instantly.

    August 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140805-AMX-PORK5.jpg 'Baconholics' undeterred by 30-year high pork prices

    With images of pigs and barbecued meats tattooed on his left calf, Brian Polak is doing what he can to cope with the highest price of bacon in three decades. The 41-year-old self-proclaimed "baconholic" now often cures his own at home to help reduce costs.

    August 5, 2014 1 Photo

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks